Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program (PPE)
University of Pennsylvania
Observability, Social Proximity, and the Erosion of Norm Compliance
Social norms are ubiquitous in social and economic life but the drivers of norm conformity are poorly understood. We study the specific ways in which others’ norm compliance influences own norm compliance. Our context is a repeated non-strategic Take-or-Give donation experiment in which we show that giving is considered socially appropriate while taking is inappropriate. We find that observation of norm violations by anonymous others strongly erodes own norm compliance. Most importantly, erosion is halted when people have even minimal social proximity to those they observe; in this case, individuals also pay attention to norm followers. Our results highlight the importance of social proximity for the dynamics of social norm compliance.