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Experimental studies on social norms


Social norms have been shown to play an ubiquitous role in Dictator Game (DG) decisions. For instance, when participants estimate others' opinions about the most socially appropriate behavior in the game (i.e., the prescriptive norm), they are more likely to choose the equitable distribution (Krupka & Weber, 2009) or a distribution closer to the equity norm (Senci et al., in preparation) relative to a control group. In the present study, we explored normative influences on DG decisions after participants thought about in-group or out-group prescriptive norms in the context of the 2015 Argentine and 2018 presidential elections. Others' group identity is supposed to be a key factor influencing people's sensitivity to these others' opinions. On one hand, many theoretical developments (e.g., Social Identity Theory, Tajfel & Turner, 1986; gene-culture co-evolution of parochial altruism, Bowles et al., 2003) and empirical results (e.g., Bernhard et al., 2006; Baldasarri & Grossman, 2013) lead to expect in-group normative opinions to have a stronger influence on behavior than out-group norms. This could be so for many reasons such as people seeking to assert their social identity by following in-group norms or learning to expect punishment from transgression of such norms. From this view, we would expect DG decisions to be closer to the equity norm when participants estimate in-groups' than out-groups' normative opinions. On the other hand, reference to the out-group norm in the context of an election might lead to social identity performance, namely behaviors that attempt to change the others' stereotypes and treatment of the in-group (Klein et al., 2007). This notion is close to the idea of competitive altruism (Roberts, 1998), though applied to concerns for the reputation of the group. From this view, we would expect more pro-social decisions after participants estimate out-groups' than in-groups' normative opinion. This prediction should stand in the pre-election context when the reputation of the group can have strong consequences on the group's success, but not after the election when stakes are much lower. (AU)