# 16-023/I (2016-04-05)

David Smerdon, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Theo Offerman, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Uri Gneezy, UC San Diego, United States
Social norms, Experiment, Identity, Behavioral Economics
JEL codes:
D03, Z130, C92

Social norms permeate society across a wide range of issues and are important to understanding how societies function. In this paper we concentrate on 'bad' social norms - those that are inefficient or even damaging to a group. This paper explains how bad social norms evolve and persist; our theory proposes a testable model of bad norms based on anecdotal evidence from real-world examples. We then experimentally test the model and find empirical support to its main predictions. Central to the model is the role of a person's social identity in encouraging compliance to a norm. The strength of this identity is found to have a positive effect on bad norm persistence. Additionally, while the size of the social group does not have a long run effect, smaller groups are more likely to break a bad norm in the short term. Furthermore, the results suggest that both anonymous communication and increasing information about others' payoffs are promising intervention policies to counter bad norms.