nep-soc New Economics Papers
on Social Norms and Social Capital
Issue of 2016‒05‒08
ten papers chosen by
Fabio Sabatini
Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”

  1. Everybody's doing it: On the Emergence and Persistence of Bad Social Norms By David Smerdon; Theo Offerman; Uri Gneezy
  2. Social capital, perceptions and economic performance By Hernández, José; Guerrero-Luchtenberg, César
  3. On Peer Effects: Contagion of Pro- and Anti-Social Behavior in Charitable Giving and The Role of Social Identity By Eugen Dimant
  4. Image Versus Information: Changing Societal Norms and Optimal Privacy By S. Nageeb Ali; Roland Bénabou
  5. Social capital, institutions and policymaking By Marco Savioli; Roberto Patuelli
  6. The Formation of Prosociality: Causal Evidence on the Role of Social Environment By Fabian Kosse; Thomas Deckers; Hannah Schildberg-Horisch; Armin Falk
  7. Individualistic Values, Institutional Trust, and Interventionist Attitudes By Hans Pitlik; Martin Rode
  8. The Impact of Taxes and Wasteful Government Spending on Giving By Roman M. Sheremeta; Neslihan Uler
  9. Can there be a market for cheap-talk information? Some experimental evidence By Cabrales, Antonio; Feri, Francesco; Gottardi, Piero; Meléndez-Jiménez, Miguel A.
  10. Intuitive Cooperation and Punishment in the Field By Artavia-Mora, Luis; Bedi, Arjun S.; Rieger, Matthias

  1. By: David Smerdon (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands); Theo Offerman (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands); Uri Gneezy (UC San Diego, United States)
    Abstract: Social norms permeate society across a wide range of issues and are important to understanding how societies function. In this paper we concentrate on 'bad' social norms - those that are inefficient or even damaging to a group. This paper explains how bad social norms evolve and persist; our theory proposes a testable model of bad norms based on anecdotal evidence from real-world examples. We then experimentally test the model and find empirical support to its main predictions. Central to the model is the role of a person's social identity in encouraging compliance to a norm. The strength of this identity is found to have a positive effect on bad norm persistence. Additionally, while the size of the social group does not have a long run effect, smaller groups are more likely to break a bad norm in the short term. Furthermore, the results suggest that both anonymous communication and increasing information about others' payoffs are promising intervention policies to counter bad norms.
    Keywords: Social norms; Experiment; Identity; Behavioral Economics
    JEL: D03 Z13 C92
    Date: 2016–04–05
  2. By: Hernández, José; Guerrero-Luchtenberg, César
    Abstract: This paper describes how social capital emerges, relates to economic performance and evolves in the long run. Using the concept of psychological equilibrium, two types of individuals are generated in the population regarding their willingness to cooperate. We propose an evolutionary (learning) process over those types driven by the total payoffs of the psychological game, and provide a complete description of its dynamics. Macro-perceptions, defined as the individual perception of how cooperative the society is as a whole, are key to explain convergence to the full social capital state in the long run.
    Keywords: Psychological Equilibrium, Belief-dependent Behavior, Evolutionary Games, Replicator Dynamics, Economic Development.
    JEL: C73 O1
    Date: 2016–04–16
  3. By: Eugen Dimant (Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania)
    Abstract: Social interactions and the resulting peer effects loom large in both economic and social contexts. This is particularly true for the spillover of pro- and anti-social behavior in explaining how such behavior and norms spread across individual people, neighborhoods, or even cultures. Although we observe the outcomes of such contagion effects, little is known about the drivers and the underlying mechanisms, especially with respect to the role of social identity with one’s peers and the pro- and anti-sociality of behavior one is exposed to. We use a variant of a power-to-take dictator game to shed light on these aspects in a controlled laboratory setting. Our experiment contributes to the existing literature in two ways: first, using a novel approach of inducing social identification with one’s peers in the lab, our design allows us to analyze the spillover-effects of behavior under varied levels of social identity. Second, we study whether pro- and anti-social behavior are equally contagious. Our results suggest that anti-social behavior is more contagious than pro-social behavior and that the extent of social identification to one’s peers particularly drives the contagion of anti-social behavior. Our findings yield strong policy implications with regards to designing effective nudges and interventions to facilitate (reduce) pro- (anti-) social behavior.
    Keywords: anti-social behavior, behavioral contagion, charitable giving, peer effects, social identity
    JEL: C91 D03 D73 D81
    Date: 2016–04
  4. By: S. Nageeb Ali; Roland Bénabou
    Abstract: We analyze the costs and benefits of using social image to foster virtuous behavior. A Principal seeks to motivate reputation-conscious agents to supply a public good. Each agent chooses how much to contribute based on his own mix of public-spiritedness, private signal about the value of the public good, and reputational concern for appearing prosocial. By making individual behavior more visible to the community the Principal can amplify reputational payoffs, thereby reducing free-riding at low cost. Because societal preferences constantly evolve, however, she knows only imperfectly both the social value of the public good (which matters for choosing her own investment, matching rate or legal policy) and the importance attached by agents to social esteem and sanctions. Increasing publicity makes it harder for the Principal to learn from what agents do (the “descriptive norm”) what they really value (the “prescriptive norm”), thus presenting her with a tradeoff between incentives and information aggregation. We derive the optimal degree of privacy/publicity and matching rate, then analyze how they depend on the economy’s stochastic and informational structure. We show in particular that in a fast-changing society (greater variability in the fundamental or the image-motivated component of average preferences), privacy should generally be greater than in a more static one.
    JEL: D62 D64 D82 H41 K42 Z13
    Date: 2016–04
  5. By: Marco Savioli (Department of Economics, University of Bologna, Italy; The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis, Italy); Roberto Patuelli (Department of Economics, University of Bologna, Italy; The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis, Italy)
    Abstract: Economic processes, consisting of interactions between human beings, exploit the social capital of persons endowed with specific cultures, identities and education. By taking into account this complexity, we focus on the role of institutions and policymaking in the building of social capital and its relevance to the fulfilment of their objectives. Social capital, however, is elusive and has several dimensions with which to interpret its multifaceted functions in economics and society. We cannot forget that social capital is sometimes even undesirable for society, for instance when unethically used. Even so, it is widely accepted that social capital has stable and positive effects.
    Date: 2016–04
  6. By: Fabian Kosse (University of Bonn); Thomas Deckers (University of Bonn); Hannah Schildberg-Horisch (University of Bonn); Armin Falk (Universitat Bonn)
    Abstract: This study presents descriptive and causal evidence on the role of social environment for the formation of prosociality. In a first step, we show that socio-economic status (SES) as well as the intensity of mother-child interaction and mothers' prosocial attitudes are systematically related to elementary school children's prosociality. In a second step, we present evidence on a randomly assigned variation of the social environment, providing children with a mentor for the duration of one year. Our data include a two-year follow-up and reveal a significant and persistent increase in prosociality in the treatment relative to the control group. Moreover, enriching the social environment bears the potential to close the observed developmental gap in prosociality between low and high SES children. Our findings suggest that the program serves as a substitute for prosocial stimuli in the family environment.
    Keywords: Formation of preferences, prosociality, social preferences, trust, social inequality
    JEL: D64 C90
    Date: 2016–04
  7. By: Hans Pitlik (WIFO); Martin Rode
    Abstract: Ever since Max Weber (1930) uncovered the cultural origins of capitalism, a common denominator for explanations of economic development is that "individualistic values" provide a more favourable background for promoting the wealth of nations. This paper investigates the impact of individualist values on personal attitudes towards government intervention, as a potential link of culture and formal institutions. We consider two key components of an "individualistic culture" to be particularly relevant for attitude formation, namely values related to self-direction and self-determination. Results indicate that both elements of individualistic values are associated negatively with interventionist preferences. Interestingly, effects of self-direction values on intervention attitudes are much weaker though, than the effects of a strong belief in self-determination. Moreover, the effects of self-direction on intervention preferences are mitigated through higher trust in state actors and lower confidence in major companies, while that does not appear to be the case for self-determination values.
    Keywords: individualism, self-direction, self-determination, government intervention, institutional trust, preference formation
    Date: 2016–03–22
  8. By: Roman M. Sheremeta (Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University and Economic Science Institute, Chapman University); Neslihan Uler (Institute for Social Research, the University of Michigan)
    Abstract: We examine the impact of taxes and wasteful government spending on charitable giving. In our model, the government collects a flat-rate tax on income net of donations and wastes part of the tax revenue before redistribution. The model provides theoretical predictions which we test in a framed field experiment. The results of the experiment show that the tax rate has a weak and insignificant effect on giving. The degree of waste, however, has a large, negative and significant effect on giving, with the relationship moderated by the curvature in the utility function.
    Keywords: giving, charity donations, tax, waste, redistribution, experiments
    JEL: C90 D64 H41
    Date: 2016
  9. By: Cabrales, Antonio; Feri, Francesco; Gottardi, Piero; Meléndez-Jiménez, Miguel A.
    Abstract: This paper reports on experiments testing the viability of markets for cheap talk information. We find that these markets are fragile. The reasons are surprising given the previous experimental results on cheap-talk games. Our subjects provide low-quality information even when doing so does not increase their monetary payoff. We show that this is not because subjects play a different (babbling) equilibrium. By analyzing subjects' behavior in another game, we find that those adopting deceptive strategies tend to have envious or non-pro-social traits. The poor quality of the information transmitted leads to a collapse of information markets.
    Keywords: Auction; cheap talk; Experiment; Information Acquisition; Information Sale
    JEL: C72 D83 G14
    Date: 2016–03
  10. By: Artavia-Mora, Luis (ISS, Erasmus University Rotterdam); Bedi, Arjun S. (ISS, Erasmus University Rotterdam); Rieger, Matthias (ISS, Erasmus University Rotterdam)
    Abstract: We test whether humans are intuitively inclined to cooperate with or punish strangers using a natural field experiment. We exogenously vary the time available to help a stranger in an everyday situation. Our findings suggest that subjects intuitively tend to help but behave more selfishly as thinking time increases. We also present suggestive evidence that time pressure can increase rates of punishment. We discuss our results with respect to findings in the lab on cognitive models of dual-processing and the origins of human cooperation.
    Keywords: cooperation, punishment, response time, dual-process of cognition, natural field experiment
    JEL: D03 D63 D64
    Date: 2016–04

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