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Recent models of prosociality suggest that cooperation in laboratory games may be better understood as resulting from concern for social norms than from prosocial preferences over outcomes. Underlying this interpretation is the idea that people exhibit heterogeneous respect for shared norms. We introduce a new, abstract task to elicit a proxy for individual norm-following propensity by asking subjects to choose from two actions, where one is costly. We instruct subjects that “the rule is” to take the costly action. Their willingness to incur such a cost reveals respect for norms. We show that choices in this task are similar across five countries. Rule-following is correlated with norm-consistent behavior in dictator games, providing support for our interpretation.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Economics Letters. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Economics Letters, volume 168, in 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.econlet.2018.04.030

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