ICES Seminar in Experimental Economics and Game Theory

Measuring Norms using the BESA method

Friday, January 28, 2022 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM EST
Online Location, Zoom Meeting

The ICES Seminar in Experimental Economics and Game Theory of the Spring 2022 semester will feature:

Diego Aycinena

Del Rosario University

Measuring Norms using the BESA method


Please contact ICES Office Manager ( for Zoom link.



Understanding and measuring social norms requires eliciting higher order beliefs over the “appropriateness” of a set of actions available to a decision-maker in a specific setting (Normative Expectations, NE, or perceived Injunctive Norms). There are two widely used methods to elicitation NE. In this paper we propose a new method that adapts the Belief Elicitation by Superimposition Approach (BESA) by Fragiadakis et al. (2019). The proposed BESA method captures both PNB and NE, . We test in the laboratory the BESA method using variations of the dictator game and a vignette study with different ordinary situations. This allows us to stress-test the method under the risk of type I errors, competing norms, and changes in norms. Our results suggest the BESA method is a promising alternative and shows solid performance relative to the two predominant methods. Compared to the method proposed by Bicchieri and Xiao (2009), it recovers the full distribution of beliefs, is robust to non-standard preferences and to false consensus effects (detecting norms that do not apply), and allows to capture the intensive margin. Compared to the method advanced by Krupka and Weber (2013), BESA recovers first- and second-order beliefs, is not susceptible to sunspot effects, and does not depend on an arbitrary choice of the scale.


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