We consider a society with informed individuals (adults) and naive individuals (children). Adults are altruistic towards their own children and possess information that allows to better predict the behavior of other adults. Children benefit from adopting behaviors that conform to the social norm determined by aggregate adult behavior, but, lacking accurate information, have to rely on the observed behavior of their adult parent to infer the norm. We show that this causes a signaling distortion in adult behavior. Compared to the benchmark case of no signaling, parents have a higher propensity to adopt attitudes that encourage their children to behave in a socially safe way, i.e. the way which would be optimal under maximum uncertainty about the prevailing social norm. This distortion is different in nature from the typical distortion due to a con ict of interest between sender and receiver in standard signaling games. The norm-signaling bias is self-reinforcing and might lead both to (Pareto) superior and inferior outcomes relative to the case of no signaling. We discuss applications to sexual attitudes, collective reputation, and trust.
Signaling Norms Strategic Uncertainty Complementarities Coordination Games Socialization