Push, don’t nudge: Behavioral spillovers and policy instruments

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Giovanna d’Adda, Valerio Capraro, Massimo Tavoni
Economic Letters
Issue number: 
Volume 154, May 2017
Journal pages: 
Policy interventions are generally evaluated for their direct effectiveness. Little is known about their ability to persist over time and spill across contexts. These latter aspects can reinforce or offset the direct impacts depending on the policy instrument choice. Through an online experiment with 1486 subjects, we compare four widely used policy instruments in terms of their ability to enforce a norm of fairness in the Dictator Game, and to persist over time (i.e., to a subsequent untreated Dictator Game) or spill over to a norm of cooperation (i.e., to a subsequent Prisoner’s Dilemma). As specific policy interventions, we employed two instances of nudges : defaults and social information; and two instances of push measures: rebates and a minimum donation rule. Our results show that (i) rebates, the minimum donation rule and social information have a positive direct effect on fairness, although the effect of social information is only marginally significant, and that (ii) the effect of rebates and the minimum donation rule persists in the second game, but only within the same game type. These findings demonstrate that, within our specific design, push measures are more effective than nudges in promoting fairness.
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