Does ignorance promote norm compliance?

  • Patrick Groeber
  • Heiko RauhutEmail author


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, ignorance promotes norm compliance. We challenge this view by arguing that in scenarios, 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 reason is that unsuspicious inspectors who believe that little hidden norm violations are committed will spend less effort for detection, some formerly detected norm violations 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.

Social norms Dark figure Self-fulfilling prophecy Crime Control Punishment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chair of Systems DesignETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Chair of Sociology, in Particular of Modeling and SimulationETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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