Of Social Norms and Sanctioning: A Game Theoretical Overview

Of Social Norms and Sanctioning: A Game Theoretical Overview

Daniel Villatoro (Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (IIIA - CSIC), Spain), Sandip Sen (University of Tulsa, USA) and Jordi Sabater-Mir (Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (IIIA - CSIC), Spain)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/jats.2010120101
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“Social norms” is a term widely used in different areas of research like sociology, philosophy or multiagent systems. However, there is still not a clear definition of what social norms are and the types of problems they solve. This work presents a general classification and distinction of norms from a game theoretical perspective. The types of norms treated in this work are those norms created through the interaction of agents and that are not imposed by any central authority. The main differentiation is made between conventional norms and essential norms. The former are norms created to establish a convention in a situation where several solutions are equally feasible, but the society must decide on one, e.g., driving on one side of the road; the later norms solve problems of collective action. Finally, we analyze several aspects of sanctioning mechanisms and how these mechanisms affect in the emergence of norms.
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Normative Vocabulary

Before proceeding further we need to define some terms that are related to norms and that we consider to be the basic vocabulary for a common understanding of the three main branches of research (sociology, economy and multiagent systems). The interactionist norms that we are analyzing in this work are created, oriented, controlled and imposed by agents. Following Coleman (1998) agents are grouped by their role in the norm. There are two basic roles: the beneficiaries and the targets. Targets are the actors for whom the norm is specified for. Beneficiaries are those actors who benefit from the norm, potentially hold the norm and are potential sanctioners of the target actors. In the same example from Coleman, in the norm “Children should be seen and not heard”, the target are childrens and the beneficiaries are adults around those children looking for some peaceful environment.

Another characteristic of norms describes how the norms affect the actors.

The norms where the set of target and beneficiaries are completely disjoint are defined by Coleman as Disjoint norms.

However, the set of target actors and beneficiaries might not necessarily be disjoint for a norm.

Coleman defines the norms where each actor is simultaneously beneficiary and target of the norm as Conjoint norms.

However these distinction are the extremes. Coleman presents different intermediate cases with different types of inclusions of both sets of targets and beneficiaries shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Coleman’s inclusion relation of beneficiaries and targets of a norm for different types of norms


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