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Incentives for conformity and disconformity

On 8th January 2018 (1-2pm) Urs Fischbacher, Swiss economist and professor at the chair of Applied Research in Economics at the University of Konstanz, will give a presentation about “Incentives for conformity and disconformity” in Q4.245. Afterwards, Mr. Fischbacher will be available for questions and discussions. His presentation is part of 


There is abundant evidence for conformity but there are also situations in which people try to set themselves apart. We investigate how punishment and reward affect these behaviors. We rely on a 3 (punishment vs. no incentive vs. reward) x 2 (arts vs. quiz) experiment design.

First, two subjects make a binary choice. In the arts treatment, they choose one out of two arts postcards and in the quiz treatment, they choose one out of two answers to a difficult knowledge question. Then, a third person makes the same choice, knowing the decision of the first two subjects. Since this third person also makes unconditional decisions in which the two options each are compared with a third option, we can infer whether subjects make conform, disconform, or autonomous choices.

Finally, evaluators are shown the three choices of a group and, depending on the treatment, assign a bonus or a deduction to one of the three subjects. We find that punishment leads to more conformity and reward leads to more disconformity, and we find more conformity in the quiz treatments than in the arts treatments. Disconformity is rare. It exists only in the reward treatment and it is stronger in the arts than in the quiz treatment.

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