May 13, 2013

Does Social Judgment Diminish Rule Breaking?

We conducted an experiment simulating three rule-breaking situations, theft, bribery and embezzlement, where we varied the extent to which the actions of the potential rule-breaker are visible to others and are subject to social judgment in the form of informal approval and disapproval messages. We involved a US student sample characterized by cultural heterogeneity due to the immigration of their ancestors to the US from a multitude of countries characterized by different levels of rule of law, as measured by the World Bank’s Rule of Law index. We found significant differences in the responses of potential rule breakers to our social observability treatments. In particular, while subjects that identify with high rule of law countries responded to the possibility of social judgment by decreasing their propensities to engage in rule breaking behavior, subjects who identify culturally with low rule of law countries did not.
HT: Fabio Sabatini.  

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