Does ignorance promote norm compliance?

Authors: Patrick Groeber and Heiko Rauhut

Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory (2010)

Abstract

A large extent of undetected norm violations may have positive effects for society. If many norm violations are hidden, society seems to be in good order so that actors are more willing to comply with the norms themselves. In this sense, igno-rance promotes norm compliance.We challenge this view by arguing that in scenar-ios, in which norms are controlled and enforced by third parties who receive rewards for their success, the opposite is true: Ignorance promotes norm violations. The rea-son is that unsuspicious inspectors who believe that little hidden norm violations are committed will spend less effort for detection, some formerly detected norm viola-tions will go undetected, norm targets will be less deterred from the lower detection probability and will commit more norm violations over time. This article develops a respective mathematical model and confirms the above described intuition.