Efficient Institutions and Effective Deterrence: On Timing and Uncertainty of Formal Sanctions

34 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2018 Last revised: 10 Feb 2020

See all articles by Johannes Buckenmaier

Johannes Buckenmaier

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Eugen Dimant

University of Pennsylvania, Behavioral Ethics Lab

Ann-Christin Posten

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Ulrich Schmidt

University of Kiel - Institute of Economics

Date Written: February 7, 2020

Abstract

Economic theory suggests that the deterrence of deviant behavior is driven by a combination of severity and certainty of punishment. This paper presents the first controlled experiment to study a third important factor that has been mainly overlooked: the swiftness of formal sanctions. We consider two dimensions: the timing at which the uncertainty about whether one will be punished is dissolved and the timing at which the punishment is actually imposed, as well as the combination thereof. By varying these dimensions of delay systematically, we find a surprising non-monotonic relation with deterrence: either no delay (immediate resolution and immediate punishment) or maximum delay (both resolution and punishment as much as possible delayed) turn out equally effective at deterring deviant behavior and recidivism in our context. Our results yield implications for the design of institutional policies aimed at mitigating misconduct and reducing recidivism.

Keywords: Deterrence, Institutions, Punishment, Swiftness, Uncertainty

JEL Classification: C91, D02, D81, K42

Suggested Citation

Buckenmaier, Johannes and Dimant, Eugen and Posten, Ann-Christin and Schmidt, Ulrich, Efficient Institutions and Effective Deterrence: On Timing and Uncertainty of Formal Sanctions (February 7, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3300563 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3300563

Johannes Buckenmaier

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Z├╝rich
Switzerland

Eugen Dimant (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania, Behavioral Ethics Lab ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/eugendimant/

Ann-Christin Posten

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Ulrich Schmidt

University of Kiel - Institute of Economics ( email )

Olshausenstrasse 40
24098 Kiel, 24098
Germany

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