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American Economic Journal: Microeconomics: Vol. 4 No. 1 (February 2012)

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The Impact of Social Ties on Group Interactions: Evidence from Minimal Groups and Randomly Assigned Real Groups

Article Citation

Goette, Lorenz, David Huffman, and Stephan Meier. 2012. "The Impact of Social Ties on Group Interactions: Evidence from Minimal Groups and Randomly Assigned Real Groups." American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, 4(1): 101-15.

DOI: 10.1257/mic.4.1.101

Abstract

Economists are increasingly interested in how group membership affects individual behavior. The standard method assigns individuals to "minimal" groups, i.e. arbitrary labels, in a lab. But real group often involve social interactions leading to social ties between group members. Our experiments compare randomly assigned minimal groups to randomly assigned groups involving real social interactions. While adding social ties leads to qualitatively similar, although stronger, in-group favoritism in cooperation, altruistic norm enforcement patterns are qualitatively different between treatments. Our findings contribute to the micro-foundation of theories of group preferences, and caution against generalizations from "minimal" groups to groups with social context. (JEL C92, D64, D71, Z13)

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Authors

Goette, Lorenz (U Lausanne)
Huffman, David (Swarthmore College)
Meier, Stephan (Columbia U)

JEL Classifications

C92: Design of Experiments: Laboratory, Group Behavior
D64: Altruism
D71: Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
Z13: Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Social and Economic Stratification

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