Analyse & Kritik

Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory

Experiments on Social Norms

2020 (42) Issue 1


According to the classics of social theory—Durkheim, Weber, Parsons—social order cannot be based on individual utility seeking and external power, but requires ‘normative integration’. Even for large parts of the social sciences today it seems to be almost self-evident that social norms are the very ‘cement of society’ (Elster). The underlying assumption is that essential building blocks of social order in the form of individual cooperation, collective action and political governance...

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Table of Contents

Title: Social Norms in Experimental Economics: Towards a Unified Theory of Normative Decision Making
Author: Alexander Vostroknutov
Page: 3-39

Even though standard economic theory traditionally ignored any motives that may drive incentivized social decision making except for the maximization of personal consumption utility, the idea that ‘preferences for fairness’ (following social norms) might have an economically tangible impact appeared relatively early. I trace the evolution of these ideas from the first experiments on bargaining to the tests of the hypothesis that pro-sociality in general is driven by the desire to adhere to social norms. I show how a recent synthesis of economics approach with psychology, sociology, and evolutionary human biology can give rise to a mathematically rigorous, psychologically plausible, and falsifiable theory of social norms. Such a theory can predictwhich norms should emerge in each specific (social) context and is capable of organizing diverse observations in economics and other disciplines. It provides the first glimpse at how a unified theory of normative decision making might look like.

Title: Economic and Sociological Accounts of Social Norms
Author: Hartmut Kliemt
Page: 41-95

Classifying accounts of institutionalized social norms that rely on individual rule-following as `sociological\' and accounts based on individual opportunity-seeking behavior as `economic\', the paper rejects purely economic accounts on theoretical grounds. Explaining the real workings of institutionalized social norms and social order exclusively in terms of self-regarding opportunity-seeking individual behavior is impossible. An integrated sociological approach to the so-called Hobbesian problem of social order that incorporates opportunity-seeking along with rule-following behavior is necessary. Such an approach emerges on the horizon if economic methods are put to good sociological use on the basis of recent experimental economic findings on rule-following behavior.

Title: Incentivized Measurement of Social Norms Using Coordination Games
Author: Hande Erkut
Page: 97-106

Social norms are important determinants of behavior. Hence, we need reliable methods to identify them in order to increase the predictive and explanatory power of models that aim to predict human behavior. In this paper, I will focus on a norm measurement method proposed by Krupka and Weber. In particular, I will discuss whether social norms elicited using this method are malleable, and whether these norms are good predictors of behavior.

Title: Distributive Justice in the Lab: Testing the Binding Role of Agreement
Author: Laura Marcon, Pedro Francés-Gómez, and Marco Faillo
Page: 107-135

Lorenzo Sacconi and his coauthors have put forward the hypothesis that impartial agreements on distributive rules may generate a conditional preference for conformity. The observable effect of this preference would be compliance with fair distributive rules chosen behind a veil of ignorance, even in the absence of external coercion. This paper uses a Dictator Game with production and taking option to compare two ways in which the device of the veil of ignorance may be thought to generate a motivation for, and compliance with a fair distributive rule: individually—as a thought experiment that should work as a moral cue—and collectively—as an actual process of agreement among subjects. The main result is that actual agreement proves to be necessary for agents to be led towards a fair distributive principle and to generate a significant amount of compliance in absence of external authority. This conclusion vindicates the role of actual agreements in generating motivational power in correspondence with fair distributive rules.

Title: Equality and Merit. Through Experiments to Normative Justice
Author: Anton Leist
Page: 137-170

When we want to justify claims against one another, we discover that conceptual thought alone is not sufficient to legitimize property and income in the relative and proper proportions among members of a productive group. Instead, the basis for justification should also be seen in motivational states, validated less by rational thought than by an effective behaviour. To circumnavigate otherwise dangerously utopian claims to justice, the social sciences, and especially behavioural economics, are the most reliable basis for normative distributive justice. This article builds on recent findings of experiments, first of all in order to give proof of the extent to which a general behavioural tendency towards equality is widespread among people, and second of all in order to highlight ‘desert’ and ‘need’ as the crucial criteria of just distribution, which will then sum up to justified inequality in the economic sphere.

Title: Moral Progress: Improvement of Moral Concepts, Refinements of Moral Motivation
Author: Gertrud Nunner-Winkler
Page: 171-190

In their recent book Buchanan and Powell claim that there is moral progress. Th ir analysis focuses on increasing inclusiveness, yet they also suggest other dimensions as possible indicators—improvements in the concept of morality and refinements in moral motivation. In the following I present empirical data on changes in moral understanding that occurred during the second half of the 20th century in Germany. These changes concern an increasing delimitation of the moral realm, the rise of an ethics of responsibility, the displacement of an orientation to super ego dictates by a more ego-syntonic type of moral motivation. This research largely follows the ‘cognitivist’ paradigm which I start off defending against Haidt’s counter proposal of moral intuitionism. Feasible explanatory factors for the changes documented are put forward—processes of secularization and changes in socialization styles—and their interpretation as indicators of moral progress is discussed. The paper ends with brief speculations concerning possible reasons for current moral regressions.

Title: Habermas’s Politics of Rational Freedom: Navigating the History of Philosophy between Faith and Knowledge
Author: Peter J. Verovšek
Page: 191-217

Despite his hostility to religion in his early career, since the turn of the century Habermas has devoted his research to the relationship between faith and knowledge. His two-volume Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie is the culmination
of this project. Spurred by the attacks of 9/11 and the growing conflict between religion and the forces of secularization, I argue that this philosophy of history is the centerpiece of an important turning point in Habermas’s intellectual development. Instead of interpreting religion merely as part of the history of postmetaphysical thinking, Habermas now sees it as a crucial normative resource for both philosophy and social cohesion in the future aswell. Despite its backward-looking approach,my basic thesis is that this book is best understood as a forward-looking appeal for a tolerant, self-reflective democratic politics that brings religious and secular citizens together dialogically through the cooperative use of their rational freedom.

Title: Luck Egalitarianism and Relational Egalitarianism: An Internal Tension in Cohen’s Theory of Justice
Author: Jiangjin Chen
Page: 219-240

Relational Egalitarianism focuses on the construction of equal social relationships between persons. It strongly opposes luck egalitarianism, which understands equality as a distributive ideal. In Cohen’s theory of justice, luck egalitarianism and relational egalitarianism simultaneously exist, and Cohen provides arguments corresponding to each. In this paper, we explore the manifestation of tension between these two forms of egalitarianism in his theory. In addition, we also reconstruct some possible solutions provided by Cohen to soften this tension, including the three approaches of market mechanism, egalitarian ethos and value pluralism, and find them to be unsuccessful. This tension is a serious challenge that needs to be addressed in Cohen’s theory of justice.

Title: Diversity and Decency
Author: Beata Polanowska-Sygulska
Page: 241-25

George Crowder’s article makes an interesting contribution to the literature on value pluralism. Yet, as a commentary onmy essay (Polanowska-Sygulska,2019c) it is entirely misconceived. Crowder’s reading of my text is inadequate, in terms of both the legal and the philosophical aspects of my argument. Having ascribed to me the belief that pluralism always favors cultural diversity against legal uniformity (a belief which I do not hold), he argues that a single uniform law may engender more value diversity than a multiplicity of local legal systems. This may ndeed be so, but it is notmy concern. What Isaiah Berlin aimed at more than anything else was to bring about a decent societ y, which at times requires the pursuit of other values to be limited. I share his approach and therefore argue that, for the sake of decency, both value diversity and cultural diversity may sometimes need to be restricted.

Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Universität Düsseldorf
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