What a Theory of Social Norms and Institutions Should Look Like: Experimental Economics, Rational Choice Sociology, and the Explanation of Normative Phenomena

Analyse & Kritik 42 (2):313-342 (2020)
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Abstract

In the previous issue of Analyse & Kritik (2020, vol. 42, issue 1) Alexander Vostroknutov (3-39) aims at a ‘synthesis’ of economics with ‘psychology, sociology, and evolutionary human biology.’ This paper argues that his approach needs to be complemented at least by work from sociologists and social psychologists. Starting with problems of defining and measuring norms it is then claimed that a theory of norms should address the origin, change and effects of norms and model micromacro processes. This should also be the goal of a theory of institutions (which are defined here as sets of norms-norms in the sense of accepting oughtness statements). We show how the social psychological value expectancy theory can be applied to model the variety of incentives that could play a role in explaining the effects of norms. Regarding the origin Coleman’s theory of norms is applied to show how Vostroknutov’s dissatisfaction-norms hypothesis can be improved.

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