actual study via pdf:

a fine is a price

of the study:

our data include observation of 10 day-care centers over a period of 20 weeks. in the first 4 weeks we simply observed the number of parents who arrived late. at the beginning of the fifth week we introduced a fine in six of the 10 day-care centers. the fine was imposed on parents who arrived more than 10 minutes late. no fine was introduced in the four other day-care centers, which served as a control group.

after the introduction of the fine we observed a steady increase in the number of parents coming late. at the end of an adjustment period that lasted 2-3 weeks, the number of late-coming  parents remained stable, at a rate higher than in the no-fine period.

the fine was removed at the beginning of the seventeenth week. in the following 4 weeks the number of parents coming late remained at the same high level of the previous period, higher than in the initial 4 weeks.

we don’t claim that the effect is similar every time a fine is introduced. it is e’asy to speculate that no parent would come late if a very alrge fine were involved. what this field study teaches us, we believe, is that the introduction of the fine changes the perception of people regarding the environment in which they operate. in particular, we argue that the environment in our study, as in many real-life situations, is defined by an incomplete contract. in the specific situation under examination, the exact consequence of coming late was not specified in the contract between the parents and the day-care center. for instance, there was no precise set of clauses specifying the consequence of one, two , or several occurrences of a delayed pickup of a child. parents could form any belief on the matter, as they probably did, and act accordingly. the introduction of the fine into the incomplete contract, however, reshapes the parents’ perception of this environment.


via insight from Clay‘s cognitive surplus.

originally shared here:


oikos, the giving tree,  et al

shirky transaction law

part\ial ness is killing us


money ness