Working Paper

On Social Sanctions and Beliefs: A Pollution Norm Example

Feb 14, 2013 | Jorge Garcia, Jiegen Wei

This was created in partnership with Environment for Development .


A prevailing view in the literature is that social sanctions can support, in equilibrium, high levels of obedience to a costly norm. The reason is that social disapproval and stigmatization faced by the disobedient are highest when disobedience is the exception rather than the rule in society. In contrast, the (Bayesian) model introduced here shows that imperfect information causes the expected social sanction to be lowest precisely when obedience is more common. This, amongst other findings, draws a distinct line between social and moral sanctions, both of which may depend on others' behavior but not on action observability.