Author(s)  
Roland Bènabou, Armin Falk, Jean Tirole

By downplaying externalities, magnifying the cost of moral behavior, or suggesting not being pivotal, exculpatory narratives can allow individuals to maintain a positive image when in fact acting in a morally questionable way. Conversely, responsibilizing narratives can help sustain better social norms. We investigate when narratives emerge from a principal or the actor himself, how they are interpreted and transmitted by others, and when they spread virally. We then turn to how narratives compete with imperatives (general moral rules or precepts) as alternative modes of communication to persuade agents to behave in desirable ways.

JEL Codes  
D62: Externalities
D64: Altruism; Philanthropy
D78: Positive Analysis of Policy-Making and Implementation
D83: Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief
D85: Network Formation and Analysis: Theory
D91: Intertemporal Consumer Choice; Life Cycle Models and Saving
H41: Public Goods
K42: Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
L14: Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation; Networks
Z13: Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Social and Economic Stratification
Keywords  
moral behavior
prosocial behavior
narratives
imperatives
justifications
rules
Kantian reasoning
deontology
consequentialism
utilitarianism
norms
organizations