Bad Boys: How Criminal Identity Salience Affects Rule Violation

University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 132

31 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2013 Last revised: 13 May 2015

See all articles by Alain Cohn

Alain Cohn

University of Michigan

Michel André Maréchal

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Thomas Noll

Swiss Prison Staff Training Center

Date Written: May 2015

Abstract

We conducted an experiment with 182 inmates from a maximum security prison to analyze the impact of criminal identity salience on cheating. The results show that inmates cheat more when we exogenously render their criminal identity more salient. This effect is specific to individuals who have a criminal identity, because an additional placebo experiment shows that regular citizens do not become more dishonest in response to crime-related reminders. Moreover, our experimental measure of cheating correlates with inmates' offenses against in-prison regulation. Together, these findings suggest that criminal identity salience plays a crucial role in rule violating behavior.

Keywords: Dishonesty, identity, crime, prison, experiment

JEL Classification: K00, C93, K14, K42, Z10

Suggested Citation

Cohn, Alain and Maréchal, Michel André and Noll, Thomas, Bad Boys: How Criminal Identity Salience Affects Rule Violation (May 2015). University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 132, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2347260 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2347260

Alain Cohn (Contact Author)

University of Michigan ( email )

105 S State St
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Michel André Maréchal

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland

Thomas Noll

Swiss Prison Staff Training Center ( email )

Av. Beauregard 11
Fribourg, 1700
Switzerland
+41(0)26 425 44 00 (Phone)

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