History, Expectations, and Leadership in the Evolution of Social Norms
We study the evolution of the social norm of "cooperation" in a dynamic environment. Each agent lives for two periods and interacts with agents from the previous and next generations via a coordination game. Social norms emerge as patterns of behavior that are stable in part due to agents' interpretations of private information about the past, which are influenced by occasional past behaviors that are commonly observed. We first characterize the (extreme) cases under which history completely drives equilibrium play, leading to a social norm of high or low cooperation. In intermediate cases, the impact of history is potentially countered by occasional "prominent" agents, whose actions are visible by all future agents, and who can leverage their greater visibility to influence expectations of future agents and overturn social norms of low cooperation. We also show that in equilibria not completely driven by history, there is a pattern of "reversion" whereby play starting with high (low) cooperation reverts toward lower (higher) cooperation.
This working paper was previously circulated as "History, Expectations, and Leadership in the Evolution of Cooperation." We thank David Jimenez-Gomez for excellent research assistance and several useful suggestions. We also thank seminar participants at Berkeley, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Harvard-MIT, Stanford, Northwestern, Penn (PIER), Princeton, Santa Barbara and UC San Diego for helpful comments. We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the NSF grants SES-0961481 and SES-0729361. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Daron Acemoglu & Matthew O. Jackson, 2015. "History, Expectations, and Leadership in the Evolution of Social Norms," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 423-456. citation courtesy of