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Title: Why does dictator game sharing vary? Identifying social norms


Erin Krupka, IZA - Institute for the Study of Labor
Roberto Weber, Department of Social and Decision Sciences Carnegie Mellon University


We explore the influence of social norms on behavior. To do so, we introduce a method for identifying norms, based on the property that social norms reflect shared agreement regarding appropriate behavior.

We demonstrate that the norms we elicit, along with a simple model combining concern for norm-compliance with utility for money, predict changes across several variants of the dictator game in which behavior changes following the introduction of minor contextual variations.

Our model and results demonstrate that people care not just about monetary payoffs, but also about the "correctness" of any action they take to obtain a payoff, that there is heterogeneous concern about complying with social norms and that this heterogeneity is a source of variation in the behavior we observe.

Finally, we demonstrate that a social norm is not a single action that should or should not be taken, but rather varies the degree of acceptability for different actions one could take.

Our analysis suggests that this distinction (between the point estimate of the social norm and the degree to which appropriateness varies across all actions) is an important way in which norms influence behavior.