Trick for a Treat: The Effect of Costume, Identity, and Peers on Norm Violations
20 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2019
Date Written: October 16, 2019
We hypothesize that clothes can affect the behavior of the wearer by influencing the person’s identity. We test this hypothesis by recruiting trick-or-treaters during Halloween, a time of year when people wear salient and extreme clothing. Because the tradition of costume-wear for Halloween evolved, in part, to hide one’s identity during “tricks” (i.e. norm violations), it is particularly relevant to measure the effect of Halloween costumes on ethical behavior. We use the dice-rolling lying game as our experimental paradigm with 2×3×2 conditions. First, we vary the stakes to price lying behavior. Second, we run three conditions with different beneficiaries of the report (self, other, and both) to test whether lying for others is perceived to be normative. Third, we prime subjects about their costume to test the effect of costume and identity on ethical behavior. Surprisingly, priming had the opposite effect that we predicted. Rather than behaving consistently with the identity of one’s costume, primed “good guys” lied more and primed “bad guys” lied less. We interpret this as a moral licensing/self-conscience effect. We also find that stakes had no effect, people lied more for themselves than for others, and although there were no direct effects of gender, we found that children lie more when children of the same gender near them lie more. Lying has an inverted-U pattern with age, peaking at age 12.
Keywords: Halloween, lying experiment, identity, costume, clothes, norm violation
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