Faking it is hard to do: Entrepreneurial norm enforcement and suspicions of deviance

Minjae Kim, Ezra W.Zuckerman Sivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Recent research suggests that many norms may be upheld by closet deviants who engage in enforcement so as to hide their deviance. But various empirical accounts indicate that audiences are often quite sensitive to this ulterior motive. Our theory and experimental evidence identify when inferences of ulterior motive are drawn and clarify the implications of such inferences. Our main test pivots on two contextual factors: (1) the extent to which individuals might try to strategically feign commitment and (2) the contrast between "mandated" enforcement, where individuals are asked for their opinions of deviance, and "entrepreneurial" enforcement, where enforcement requires initiative to interrupt the flow of social interaction. When the context is one where individuals might have a strategic motive and enforcement requires entrepreneurial initiative, suspicions are aroused because the enforcers could have remained silent and enjoyed plausible deniability that they had witnessed the deviance or recognized its significance. Given that the mandate for enforcement might be rare, a key implication is that norms might frequently be underenforced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)580-610
Number of pages31
JournalSociological Science
StatePublished - Oct 25 2017


  • Deviance
  • Enforcement
  • Rational choice
  • Signaling
  • Social norms
  • Social psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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