The need to justify is both a widely observed social phenomenon and an important part of communication. This paper examines experimentally how pure pressure to justify affects conformity behavior in economic environments. The evidence suggests that pressure to justify increases sensitivity to norm deviations. In a one-shot anonymous interaction, compared with the case when the behavior is simply observed by the audience, individuals’ behaviors are more likely to reflect what they believe the audience thinks they should do when they must explain their decisions to the audience. Whether justification pressure can discourage selfish behavior is positively correlated with the proportion of individuals who believe the audience disapproves of such behavior. The implications of these findings can help shape institutions to promote conformity and prosocial behavior.
- Experimental economics
- Social norms