Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Fear of retaliation

Public Release: 2-Nov-2016
Fear of retaliation
Why we tend not to enforce social norms
University of Cologne

Imagine a group of travelers who witness two cases of littering at a train station. One person throws a coffee cup on the platform. Another person throws away not only a coffee cup, but an entire bag of trash. Who is more likely to be confronted and reprimanded by bystanders? Although throwing away a bag of trash is considered the bigger norm violation, this behavior does not elicit a stronger reaction in witnesses. That is the result of a study conducted by Bettina Rockenbach, Professor of Experimental and Behavioral Economics at the University of Cologne, Loukas Balafoutas (University of Innsbruck) and Nikos Nikiforakis (New York University Abu Dhabi).


Travelers have more negative emotions toward the larger violation and felt that it should be reprimanded more severely. Despite these emotional responses, however, the surveyed individuals admitted that they would be reluctant to confront or punish such violations in real-life settings.

The scientists explain this reluctance with the perceived risk of retaliation by the norm violator. The greater the norm violation, the greater the retaliation might be. Bystanders feared that in cases of a more severe social norm violation, the person's reaction would be stronger when confronted or reprimanded. The study shows that social self-regulation has its limits. Up to a certain point, we reprimand each other for bad behavior. But in cases of more extreme norm violations, social self-regulation no longer works and we need authorities, police and security personnel.

No comments:

Post a Comment