Dynamics and Stability of Informal Norms

by James A. Kitts


A recent study examined the interplay of formal and informal control, showing how selective incentives to contribute to collective goods may paradoxically lead to enforcement of antisocial norms that oppose the collective good. A set of simulation experiments identified conditions in which the widely-cited effects of group cohesiveness, selective incentives, and second-order free riding on collective action may be inverted. This paper discusses some generic constraints on inferences from computer simulation and investigates the same model mathematically. This complementary view provides further insights into the model’s behavior, relaxes some of the restrictive assumptions of the computational experiment, and provides some certain bounds on the model’s behavior.

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This article is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0433086.

Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).