Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Narratives, Imperatives, and Moral Reasoning

Author(s): Roland Bénabou, Armin Falk and Jean Tirole

Publication Date: July 2018

Keyword(s): consequentialism, deontology, imperatives, moral behavior, narratives, norms, organizations, prosocial behavior and rules

Programme Area(s): Development Economics, Industrial Organization and Public Economics

Abstract: By downplaying externalities, magnifying the cost of moral behavior, or suggesting not being pivotal, exculpatory narratives can allow individuals to maintain a positive image when in fact acting in a morally questionable way. Conversely, responsibilizing narratives can help sustain better social norms. We investigate when narratives emerge from a principal or the actor himself, how they are interpreted and transmitted by others, and when they spread virally. We then turn to how narratives compete with imperatives (general moral rules or precepts) as alternative modes of communication to persuade agents to behave in desirable ways.

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Bibliographic Reference

Bénabou, R, Falk, A and Tirole, J. 2018. 'Narratives, Imperatives, and Moral Reasoning'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.