Mandating Behavioral Conformity in Social Groups with Conformist Members
Posted: 13 May 2012
Date Written: May 10, 2012
Social interaction among individuals with a preference for conformity gives rise to coordination externalities which are not internalized in a non-cooperative setting. Mandating behavioral conformity, by centrally imposing a common, group-wide action, internalizes these coordination externalities, but also comes at a cost of restraining individuals' self-regarding goals. We explore a framework of social interaction among privately informed individuals with conformist preferences to examine when mandating behavioral conformity improves group welfare. Our analysis elucidates how the desirability of mandating behavioral conformity is shaped by the group's socio-economic structure. We find that mandating behavioral conformity is not desirable in social groups that are ex ante homogeneous -- either with respect to members' contribution to group welfare or their innate conformist tendency. In contrast, mandating behavioral conformity can be beneficial in those ex ante heterogeneous social groups where the individuals who contribute most to group welfare also exhibit the strongest preference for conformity.
Keywords: Conformity, social interaction, coordination externalities, group heterogeneity
JEL Classification: Z13, D62, D82
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation