It's Not A Lie if You Believe the Norm Does Not Apply: Conditional Norm-Following and Belief Distortion

61 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2019 Last revised: 3 May 2022

See all articles by Cristina Bicchieri

Cristina Bicchieri

University of Pennsylvania

Eugen Dimant

University of Pennsylvania; CESifo

Silvia Sonderegger

University of Bristol - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 3, 2022

Abstract

We investigate the self-serving distortion of individual beliefs about dominant norms of honesty in a context in which subjects can earn a monetary reward by lying. In contrast to the existing literature on motivated beliefs, we do not focus on distortion in one dimension alone, but instead consider beliefs in two dimensions, both of which have been shown to affect individual behavior: empirical (what other people do) and normative (what other people approve of). Our experimental findings are consistent with the predictions of a dual-self model in which conditional norm-followers strategically distort their beliefs to justify self-serving behavior. We argue that the asymmetry between what we infer from empirical as opposed to normative information is a key ingredient of belief distortion in our context: widespread honest behavior is a strong indicator of disapproval of lying (and thus that a norm of honesty is followed), but the opposite does not hold. Taken together, we show why, when, and which norm-relevant beliefs are strategically distorted.

Keywords: Lying, Social Norms, Strategic Beliefs, Uncertainty

JEL Classification: C72, C91, D8, D9

Suggested Citation

Bicchieri, Cristina and Dimant, Eugen and Sonderegger, Silvia, It's Not A Lie if You Believe the Norm Does Not Apply: Conditional Norm-Following and Belief Distortion (May 3, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3326146 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3326146

Cristina Bicchieri

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-898-5820 (Phone)

Eugen Dimant (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/view/eugendimant/

CESifo ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich
Germany

Silvia Sonderegger

University of Bristol - Department of Economics ( email )

8 Woodland Road
Bristol BS8 ITN
United Kingdom

Do you want regular updates from SSRN on Twitter?

Paper statistics

Downloads
810
Abstract Views
4,163
rank
38,514
PlumX Metrics