Driving Forces Behind Informal Sanctions

25 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2005

See all articles by Armin Falk

Armin Falk

briq - Institute on Behavior & Inequality

Ernst Fehr

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Urs Fischbacher

University of Konstanz - Faculty of Economics and Statistics

Date Written: June 2005

Abstract

This paper investigates the driving forces behind informal sanctions in cooperation games and the extent to which theories of fairness and reciprocity capture these forces. We find that cooperators' punishment is almost exclusively targeted towards the defectors but the latter also impose a considerable amount of spiteful punishment on the cooperators. However, spiteful punishment vanishes if the punishers can no longer affect the payoff differences between themselves and the punished individual, whereas the cooperators even increase the resources devoted to punishment in this case. Our data also discriminate between different fairness principles. Fairness theories that are based on the assumption that players compare their own payoff to the group's average or the group's total payoff cannot explain the fact that cooperators target their punishment at the defectors. Fairness theories assuming that players aim to minimize payoff inequalities cannot explain the fact that cooperators punish defectors even if payoff inequalities cannot be reduced. Therefore, retaliation, i.e., the desire to harm those who committed unfair acts, seems to be the most important motive behind fairness-driven informal sanctions.

Keywords: sanctioning, cooperation, social norm, reciprocity, fairness, spitefulness

JEL Classification: A13, D63, D23, C92, K42

Suggested Citation

Falk, Armin and Fehr, Ernst and Fischbacher, Urs, Driving Forces Behind Informal Sanctions (June 2005). IZA Discussion Paper No. 1635. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=756366

Armin Falk (Contact Author)

briq - Institute on Behavior & Inequality

Schaumburg-Lippe-Stra├če 5-9
Bonn, 53113
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.briq-institute.org/

Ernst Fehr

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Bl├╝mlisalpstrasse 10
Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland
+41 1 634 3709 (Phone)
+41 1 634 4907 (Fax)

Urs Fischbacher

University of Konstanz - Faculty of Economics and Statistics ( email )

Universitaetsstr. 10
78457 Konstanz
Germany

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