October 15, 2021, 11:30–12:30
Rule following is fundamental to social order. However, why people follow rules is poorly understood. Here, we develop a framework that integrates individualistic and social motives of rule following. We design a minimalist rule following task and deploy it in three series of experiments (n=14,034). We first show that rule compliance depends on normative and empirical expectations about others’ compliance, although unconditional rule following is high. Testing the causal predictions of our framework reveals that observing non-compliance reduces own compliance and disobeyed rules lose their normative appeal. Punishment of rule violations boosts compliance, increasing empirical expectations that can in turn promote compliance to a rule by reinforcing its normative desirability. Our study helps explain why rules are followed and when disorder will spread.