Abstract. Social norms, as shared understandings of what is acceptable or forbidden, play a major role in governing daily social interactions in a variety of economically relevant settings. But while there is an abundant literature documenting how they are enforced, we still know little about how social norms are transmitted and learned within groups. Understanding how social norms are taught and learned is all the more important in contexts with a multiplicity of norms and uncertainty on which one applies. Whom do we learn norms from? Parents play a major role in teaching social norms and in their social transmission across generations. But individuals also learn social norms from observing their peers. Do people select their sources of normative information strategically and how does it affect their behavior and normative views? What is the role of social incentives not only on compliance with norms but also on learning strategies when there is uncertainty on which norm applies among several? Do learning strategies differ when norm violations may be punished or when norm compliance may be rewarded?
Abstract. Why do people follow rules against their self-interest? This question is at the heart of the age-old problem of social order. Here, we present comprehensive experimental evidence (n=14,034) exposing the behavioral mechanisms underlying voluntary rule compliance. We show that preferences for rule compliance depend on normative and empirical expectations about others’ compliance. Observing non-compliance not only reduces own compliance; disobeyed rules also lose their normative appeal. Punishment of rule violations boosts compliance and upholds the normative appeal of the rule, which in turn promotes compliance. Simulations show that the interplay of social expectations and conditional preferences explains rule compliance. Our study uncovers the behavioral logic of rule compliance and helps explain when rules are followed and when violations are bound to spread.
Abstract. We analyze cooperation within a company setting in order to study the relationship between cooperative attitudes and financial as well as non-financial rewards. In total, 910 employees of a large software company participate in an incentivized online experiment. We observe high levels of cooperation and the typical conditional contribution patterns in a modified public goods game. When linking experiment and company record data, we observe that cooperative attitudes of employees do not pay off in terms of financial rewards within the company. Rather, cooperative employees receive non-financial benefits such as recognition or friendship as the main reward medium. In contrast to most studies in the experimental laboratory, sustained levels of cooperation in our company setting relate to non-financial values of cooperation rather than solely to financial incentives.