Dirk Helbing, Karl-Dieter Opp, Heiko Rauhut, Wenjian Yu

Paper #: 11-01-001

Social norms are known to establish social order and cohesion if actors commonly agree on them. In heterogeneous populations, however, normative conflict may result and social order may collapse. In this article, we show by means of a computational simulation model that homogeneous social norms may even come about in heterogeneous societies consisting of groups with competing interests. We demonstrate that punishment oriented at conformity can set off enforcement cascades leading to one generally accepted norm. In our model, agents put pressure on others to perform the same public behavior as they show themselves, even if they privately disapprove it. Interestingly, this type of punishment is more effective to form norms than pressuring others to meet their own private preferences. We conclude that group pressure and punishment may be interrelated phenomena, which can lead to homogeneous behaviors even in well diversified societies.