Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10419/223045
Authors: 
Bicchieri, Cristina
Dimant, Eugen
Xiao, Erte
Year of Publication: 
2020
Series/Report no.: 
ECONtribute Discussion Paper No. 023
Abstract: 
A stream of research examining the effect of punishment on conformity indicates that punishment can backfire and lead to suboptimal social outcomes. We examine whether this effect is due to a lack of perceived legitimacy of rule enforcement, enabling agents to justify selfish behavior. We address the question of punishment legitimacy by shedding light upon the importance of social norms and their interplay with punishment. People are often presented with incomplete norm information: either about what most others do (empirical) or what most others deem appropriate (normative). We show that in isolation, neither punishment nor empirical/normative information increase prosocial behavior. In turn, we find that prosociality significantly increases when normative information and punishment are combined, but only when compliance is relatively cheap. When compliance is more expensive, we find that the combination of punishment and empirical information about others' conformity can have detrimental effects. In additional experiments, we explain how this negative effect is due, at least for some individuals, to punishment not being perceived as justified. Our results have important implications for researchers and practitioners alike.
Subjects: 
Conformity
Punishment
Social Norms
Trust
JEL: 
C91
D03
D73
H26
Document Type: 
Working Paper

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