Partners in Crime: Diffusion of Responsibility in Antisocial Behaviors

70 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2017

See all articles by Sascha Behnk

Sascha Behnk

University of Zurich; University of Applied Sciences Europe

Li Hao

University of Arkansas - Department of Economics

Ernesto Reuben

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Abstract

Using a series of sender-receiver games, we find that two senders acting together are willing to behave more antisocially towards the receiver than single senders. This result is robust in two contexts: when antisocial messages are dishonest and when they are honest but unfavorable. Our results suggest that diffusion of responsibility is the primary reason for the increased antisocial behavior as our experimental design eliminates competing explanations. With a partner in crime, senders think that behaving antisocially is more acceptable and experience less guilt. Importantly, we identify a crucial condition for the increased antisocial behavior by groups: the partner in crime must actively participate in the decision-making. Our results have important implications for institutional design and promoting prosocial behaviors.

Keywords: diffusion of responsibility, antisocial behavior, moral norms, guilt aversion

JEL Classification: D70, D91, C92, D63

Suggested Citation

Behnk, Sascha and Hao, Li and Reuben, Ernesto, Partners in Crime: Diffusion of Responsibility in Antisocial Behaviors. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11031, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3045727

Sascha Behnk (Contact Author)

University of Zurich

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

University of Applied Sciences Europe

Dessauer Str. 3-5
Hamburg, 10963
Germany

Li Hao

University of Arkansas - Department of Economics ( email )

Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States
4795758167 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://comp.uark.edu/~lhao

Ernesto Reuben

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi ( email )

PO Box 129188
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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