Norms in Behavioral Interventions: Peer or Anchoring Effects?

Descriptive information of peers’ behavior is often used to nudge individuals to behave according to a norm. We test whether effects found may be driven by anchoring or peer effects, and test boundary conditions in two mTurk-based experimental studies with a retirement saving contribution rate scenario. In study 1, we find a strong similarity between the anchoring and peer effect. In follow-up study 2, no anchoring effect is found when more extreme values (peer norms or anchors more distant from the control group behavior) are used, whereas the peer effect remains present. Furthermore, we find evidence that the informational component – as opposed to the normative component – of peer information plays a stronger role for peer effects. Lastly, we find that, when exposed to peer information, women consistently contribute more than the provided retirement contribution norm, whereas men do not.

JEL Classification D14, D91

Keywords: Social Norms, Peer Effects, Heuristics, Anchoring, Financial Decision-making, Consumer Behavior, Financial Services

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