Markets and socially responsible behavior: do punishment and religion matter?

H.Y. Nigus, E. Nillesen, P. Mohnen, S. Di Falco*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We use a set of lab-in-the-field experiments to study whether markets erode socially re-sponsible behavior in a typical Sub-Saharan African country. In the first experiment, we randomly assign participants to a version of a game framed as a "market" context or as a "neutral" (non-market) context. Contrary to the prediction of pure self-interest theory, market participants exhibit considerable levels of socially responsible behavior. However, participants in the market context reveal a lower level of socially responsible behavior compared to the participants in the non-market contexts. We also report that punishment and religion play a significant role in promoting socially responsible behavior in markets. In a second experiment, we test whether the erosion of socially responsible behavior leads to anti-social behavior using the joy-of-destruction game. The results show that the ero-sion of socially responsible behavior triggers anti-social behavior. Finally, we look at wel-fare effects and find that our market baseline yields lower welfare compared to markets regulated by punishment mechanisms.(c) 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license ( )
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-593
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior & Organization
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023

JEL classifications

  • c93 - Field Experiments
  • d03 - Behavioral Economics: Underlying Principles
  • d62 - Externalities
  • d63 - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
  • k42 - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
  • l51 - Economics of Regulation
  • m14 - "Corporate Culture; Social Responsibility"
  • z12 - Cultural Economics: Religion


  • Markets
  • Punishment
  • Religious priming
  • Socially responsible behavior
  • SIZE

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