Public Reason: Vol. 5, No. 1, June 2013
Social Norms: Repeated Interactions, Punishment, and Context Dependence
Jonathan Grose & Cedric Paternotte

We argue that recent game theoretic approaches to social norms differ on some
fundamental issues, our focus being on recent accounts by Ken Binmore and Cristina Bicchieri.
After a brief introduction, we present the deepest cause for their disagreement, namely whether
the action of norms should be modelled as a one-shot game, the option favoured by Bicchieri, or
by a repeated game, as Binmore does. Although these choices appear to leave room for the two
accounts to be complementary, we then argue that this is not possible. First, differing attitudes
to modelling punishment, a central feature of all informal work on social norms, prevent any
straightforward integration of the two theories. Second, the solution cannot consist in merely
choosing between the two accounts, as they both fail to deal with the way in which triggered
norms depend on context, in static as well as diachronic frameworks.

Key words: social norms, Game Theory, context-dependence, punishment, repeated interaction.


Grose, Jonathan, and Cedric Paternotte. 2013. Social Norms: Repeated Interactions, Punishment, and Context Dependence. Public Reason 5 (1): 19-30.