Theme C: Social Norms


In this part of the project, we study how social norms interact with the natural environment to foster cooperation that overcomes common-pool dilemmas.



Project 1: The Creation of Social Norms under Weak Institutions


Authors: Florian Diekert, Tillmann Eymess, Joseph Luomba, Israel Waichman


Abstract: Overcoming the tragedy of the commons remains a key challenge for the sustainable management of natural resources. Particularly in settings where state capacity is weak, resource users have to rely on voluntary cooperation. Policies that aim to facilitate cooperation in such settings often turn to social norms as solutions. We use a lab-in-the-field experiment with fishermen at Lake Victoria, Tanzania (N=588), to test whether the provision of varying social information leads to different social norms of cooperation. We track both behavior and beliefs during a repeated three-person prisoner's dilemma game and explore the role of feedback and the reference network. We find that the initial provision of social information that emphasizes cooperation only succeeds in creating a norm of high cooperation when participants have the opportunity to give feedback on the behavior of others. Without feedback, initial social information does not translate into differences in behavior or beliefs. Irrespective of whether cooperation or defection is emphasized, cooperation rates decline over the course of the experiment. In the feedback treatment where social information emphasizes defection, cooperation and beliefs about cooperation start low and stay low. Interestingly, we find that participants who have a strong affliation with respect to fishing related characteristics are more likely to act in accordance with the initially provided social information.


Status: First draft of manuscript available on request: Write to



Project 2: Dissecting Norms of Cooperation


Authors: Tillmann Eymess, Florian Diekert


Abstract: Combining social information and coordinated sanctioning is a powerful tool in promoting cooperative solutions to the collective action problem of public good provision. Social sanctions are found to be more effective when implemented in settings with strong social norms and vice versa. The channels through which the combination of these two policy instruments promote pro-social behavior are however poorly understood. This paper brings the underlying behavioral mechanism between social information and cooperation into focus and examines whether it is dependent on a sanctioning opportunity. Data was collected in a one-shot prisoner's dilemma field-experiment with belief elicitation by utilizing a 2 x 2 design which crosses the provision of social information (high or low) with a sanctioning treatment (N=580). In order to disentangle the effects of social information on cooperation through subjects' perceived social norms, we conduct a conditional process analysis that allows us to dissect the proposed model into causal and conditional processes. Identified relationships may broaden the understanding of solutions to the social dilemma of common pool resources. Results suggest that the provision of social information serves a dual purpose. The analysis reveals a positive relationship between social information and cooperation that is mediated by higher empirical expectation. Those who receive information about cooperative behavior of others, expect them to cooperate and subsequently cooperate themselves. In addition, we find a positive direct effect of social information on cooperation that is moderated by the sanctioning possibility. When holding subjects' beliefs fixed, manipulating expectations in the direction of cooperative behavior leads to more cooperation only when subjects are able to weakly sanction others' choices. Results imply that sanctioning is key for successfully changing behavior when affecting social norms.


Status: First draft of manuscript available on request: Write to



Project 3: Overcapitalization and social norms of cooperation in a small-scale fishery


Authors: Robbert Schaap, Andries Richter


Abstract: The increasing technological efficiency of harvesting equipment has been identified as one of the main causes of overcapacity and overexploitation of natural resources. In this paper, a formal model is developed which studies the effects of technological efficiency as an endogenous variable within a bioeconomic system. We model capital investments in a fishery, where investment decisions are made less frequently than the allocation of variable inputs. We study how the possibility to invest in capital affects open access dynamics, and also the evolution of cooperative harvesting norms. We find that the possibility to make large capital investments can destabilize cooperation, especially if enforcement capacity is low. Further, we find that communities can preserve cooperation by agreeing on a resource level that is lower than socially-optimal. This reduces the incentive to deviate from the cooperative strategy and invest in capital.


Status: Published in Ecological Economics, vol. 166 - LinkExterner Inhalt



Project 4: Social punishment project


Authors: Florian Diekert, Peter Martinsson, Lisa Spantig


Abstract: We investigate whether the exclusion from an unrelated, social, task improves cooperation in a public good game and how this punishment institution compares to other institutions (monetary punishment and non-monetary rebuke). In addition, we ask whether there are spillovers from the social task to public good contributions even without any punishment institutions.


Status: In progress, data collection scheduled for April and May 2019

Seitenbearbeiter: E-Mail
Letzte Änderung: 10.10.2019
zum Seitenanfang/up