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A sociological perspective on measuring social norms by means of strategy method experiments


Rauhut, Heiko; Winter, Fabian (2010). A sociological perspective on measuring social norms by means of strategy method experiments. Social Science Research, 39:1181-1194.

Abstract

The measurement of social norms plays a pivotal role in many social sciences. While economists predominantly conduct experiments, sociologists rather employ (factorial) surveys. Both methods, however, suffer from distinct weaknesses. Experiments, on the one hand, often fall short in the measurement of more complex elements, such as the conditionality or the level of consensus of social norms. Surveys, on the other, lack the ability to measure actual behavior. This paper argues that the so-called “strategy method” compensates for both weaknesses. We can demonstrate the applicability of the strategy method for the measurement of conditionality and consensus of fairness norms which take individual effort into account. To substantiate our claim, we present a methodological experiment comparing results for the strategy ultimatum game with those from a “conventional” ultimatum game. We find that offers do not differ, but the acceptance rate is substantially lower in the strategy method experiment compared to the conventional one. This confirms our theoretical expectations that strategy method experiments rather measure normative principles, whereas the “conventional” method the willingness to sacrifice own profits to adhere to these principles. Our results are consistent with previous comparative research between factorial surveys and observational data.

The measurement of social norms plays a pivotal role in many social sciences. While economists predominantly conduct experiments, sociologists rather employ (factorial) surveys. Both methods, however, suffer from distinct weaknesses. Experiments, on the one hand, often fall short in the measurement of more complex elements, such as the conditionality or the level of consensus of social norms. Surveys, on the other, lack the ability to measure actual behavior. This paper argues that the so-called “strategy method” compensates for both weaknesses. We can demonstrate the applicability of the strategy method for the measurement of conditionality and consensus of fairness norms which take individual effort into account. To substantiate our claim, we present a methodological experiment comparing results for the strategy ultimatum game with those from a “conventional” ultimatum game. We find that offers do not differ, but the acceptance rate is substantially lower in the strategy method experiment compared to the conventional one. This confirms our theoretical expectations that strategy method experiments rather measure normative principles, whereas the “conventional” method the willingness to sacrifice own profits to adhere to these principles. Our results are consistent with previous comparative research between factorial surveys and observational data.

Citations

13 citations in Web of Science®
13 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Sociology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:July 2010
Deposited On:29 Apr 2014 12:55
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:51
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0049-089X
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2010.06.009

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