Experimental Economics

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 491–521 | Cite as

Is it a norm to favour your own group?

  • Donna HarrisEmail author
  • Benedikt Herrmann
  • Andreas Kontoleon
  • Jonathan Newton
Original Paper


This paper examines the relationship between norm enforcement and in-group favouritism behaviour. Using a new two-stage allocation experiment with punishments, we investigate whether in-group favouritism is considered as a social norm in itself or as a violation of a different norm, such as egalitarian norm. We find that which norm of behaviour is enforced depends on who the punisher is. If the punishers belong to the in-group, in-group favouritism is considered a norm and it does not get punished. If the punishers belong to the out-group, in-group favouritism is frequently punished. If the punishers belong to no group and merely observe in-group favouritism (the third-party), they do not seem to care sufficiently to be willing to punish this behaviour. Our results shed a new light on the effectiveness of altruistic norm enforcement when group identities are taken into account and help to explain why in-group favouritism is widespread across societies.


In-group favouritism Group identity Social norms In-group punishment Out-group punishment Third-party punishment 

JEL classification

C92 D70 D73 



We are grateful for the financial assistance from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Grant Number: RG58935; the British Academy; the Leverhulme Trust; and the Suzy Paine Trust of the Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge. We are also grateful for the discussions with Gary Charness, Vincent Crawford, Simon Gaechter, Daniele Nosenzo, Jan Potters, Aldo Rustichini, and Tim Salmon.

Supplementary material

10683_2014_9417_MOESM1_ESM.docx (125 kb)
Supplementary material (DOCX 126 kb)


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donna Harris
    • 1
    Email author
  • Benedikt Herrmann
    • 2
  • Andreas Kontoleon
    • 3
  • Jonathan Newton
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Behavioural Economics Team, Institute for Health and Consumer Protection, Joint Research CentreEuropean CommissionBruxellesBelgium
  3. 3.Institute for Health and Consumer Protection, The European Commission Joint Research CentreBehavioural Economics GroupIspra, VareseItaly
  4. 4.School of EconomicsUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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