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Bicchieri, Cristina. The Grammar of Society: The Nature and Dynamics of Social Norms
2006, Cambridge University Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Jurgis Karpus

Publisher's Note: In The Grammar of Society, first published in 2006, Cristina Bicchieri examines social norms, such as fairness, cooperation, and reciprocity, in an effort to understand their nature and dynamics, the expectations that they generate, and how they evolve and change. Drawing on several intellectual traditions and methods, including those of social psychology, experimental economics and evolutionary game theory, Bicchieri provides an integrated account of how social norms emerge, why and when we follow them, and the situations where we are most likely to focus on relevant norms. Examining the existence and survival of inefficient norms, she demonstrates how norms evolve in ways that depend upon the psychological dispositions of the individual and how such dispositions may impair social efficiency. By contrast, she also shows how certain psychological propensities may naturally lead individuals to evolve fairness norms that closely resemble those we follow in most modern societies.

Comment: Extracts from Bicchieri's book can be read in a course that covers game theory and social norms. Bicchieri's book is famous and highly praised for its contribution to our understanding of how social norms form and influence our choice behaviour in day-to-day social interactions. Christina Bicchieri has recently also co-authored a revised version of the entry 'social norms' in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP).

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Duflo, Esther. Field Experiments in Development Economics
2006, Advances in Economics and Econometrics: Theory and Applications, Ninth World Congress (Econometric Society Monographs), R. Blundell, W. Newey, & T. Persson (eds.), 322-348
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Johanna Thoma
Abstract: There is a long tradition in development economics of collecting original data to test specific hypotheses. Over the last 10 years, this tradition has merged with an expertise in setting up randomized field experiments, resulting in an increasingly large number of studies where an original experiment has been set up to test economic theories and hypotheses. This paper extracts some substantive and methodological lessons from such studies in three domains: incentives, social learning, and time-inconsistent preferences. The paper argues that we need both to continue testing existing theories and to start thinking of how the theories may be adapted to make sense of the field experiment results, many of which are starting to challenge them. This new framework could then guide a new round of experiments.

Comment: Duflo, of the MIT Poverty Action Lab and recent Nobel Prize Winner, summarizes some of the successes of randomized field evaluations in development economics. She then argues that the way forward for development economics should indeed involve some theorizing, but theorizing on the basis of our new empirical evidence - which might end up looking quite different from standard economic theory. This is a very useful (opinionated) introduction to field experiments for a week on field experiments in a philosophy of economics or philosophy of the social sciences course.

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