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Cristina Bicchieri

S. J. Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics

Professor of Philosophy and Psychology

Professor of Legal Studies, Wharton School

Head, Behavioral Ethics Lab

Director, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program

Director, Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences

Ph.D. Cambridge University

Laurea (Summa cum Laude) University of Milano

For more information, my personal page is

Research Interests

My intellectual affinities lie at the border between philosophy, game theory and psychology. My primary research focus is on judgment and decision making with special interest in decisions about fairness, trust, and cooperation, and how expectations affect behavior. A second research focus examines the nature and evolution of social norms, how to measure norms and what strategies to adopt to foster social change. This research is more applied, and forms the core of the newly created Penn Social Norms Group (PennSONG). A third, earlier research focus has been the epistemic foundations of game theory and how changes in information affects rational choices and solutions.

  • In my work on norms, I have designed behavioral experiments aimed at testing several hypotheses based on the theory of social norms that I developed in my book, The Grammar of Society: the Nature and Dynamics of Social Norms (Cambridge University Press, 2006). The experimental results show that most subjects have a conditional preference for following pro-social norms. Manipulating their expectations causes major behavioral changes (i.e., from fair to unfair choices, from cooperation to defection, etc.). One of the conclusions we may draw is that there are no such things as stable dispositions or unconditional preferences (to be fair, reciprocate, cooperate, and so on). Another is that policymakers who want to induce pro-social behavior have to work on changing people's expectations about how other people behave in similar situations. These results have major consequences for our understanding of moral behavior and the construction of better normative theories, grounded on what people can in fact do.  
  • My consulting and training work with UNICEF, the Gates foundation, the World Bank, DFID and other organizations led me to develop measures of social norms in the field. Sanitation and corruption are two major consulting areas. Most of my group's consulting work consists in developing specific measures, advising on effective interventions, and monitoring sustainability. I have developed a Penn-UNICEF Coursera on Social Norms, and my new book, Norms in the Wild: how to Diagnose, Measure and Change Social Norms (Oxford University Press, 2016) collects my thoughts and experiences from the field work I have been engaged in.    
  • The nature and dynamics of social norms studies how norms may emerge and become stable, why an established norm may suddenly be abandoned, how is it possible that inefficient or unpopular norms survive, and what motivates people to obey norms. In order to answer some of these questions, I have combined evolutionary and game-theoretic tools with models of decision making drawn from cognitive and social psychology. A recent interest is modeling the role of trendsetters in social change, and how trendsetters' characteristics interact with social structures.
  • My earlier (but never completely abandoned) research focus was the epistemic foundations of game theory. I am presently working on modeling normative expectations, and equilibria based on them. In my past work, I have analyzed the consequences of relaxing the 'common knowledge' assumption in several classes of games. My contributions include axiomatic models of players' theory of the game and the proof that -- in a large class of games -- a player's theory of the game is consistent only if the player's knowledge is limited. An important consequence of assuming bounded knowledge is that it allows for more intuitive solutions to familiar games such as the finitely repeated prisoner's dilemma or the chain-store paradox. I have also been interested in devising mechanical procedures (algorithms) that allow players to compute solutions for games of perfect and imperfect information. Devising such procedures is particularly important for Artificial Intelligence applications, since interacting software agents have to be programmed to play a variety of 'games'. 

Selected Publications

Download my papers on

Recent papers:

“Shrieking Sirens: Schemata, Scripts, and Social Norms: How Change Occurs” (with P. McNally). Social Philosophy & Policy, Volume 35, Number 1 (Spring 2018)

 “Determinants of Corruption: A Socio-psychological Analysis” (with D. Ganegonda), in P. Nichols and D. Robertson (eds.), Thinking About Bribery, Neuroscience, Moral Cognition and the Psychology of Bribery. Cambridge University Press, 2016

 “Can Trust facilitate Bribery? Experimental evidence from China, Italy, Japan and the Netherlands” (with T. Jiang and J. Lindemans), Social Cognition, 33: 483-504, 2015

 “I’m So Angry I Could Help You: Moral Outrage as a Driver of Victim Compensation” (with E. Thulin), Social Philosophy and Policy, 32 (2) 2015

“Game Theory” (with G. Sillari), Philosophy of Science Handbook, Oxford University Press, 2015

"A Structured Approach to the Diagnostic of Collective Practices" (with J. Lindemans and T. Jiang), Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 5, December 1014

 “Social Epistemology: Some Personal Reflections” in V. Hendricks and D. Pritchard (eds.) Social Epistemology: 5 Questions, Automatic Press, VIP 2014. Reprinted in Socio-Epistemic Phenomena: 5 Questions. Vincent F. Hendricks & Rasmus K. Rendsvig (eds) Automatic Press, VIP 2015

“Fairness Norms and Theory of Mind in an Ultimatum Game: Judgments, Offers, and Decisions in School-Aged Children." (with I. Castelli et al.), PlosOne, August 2014

“I cannot cheat you after we talk” (with A. Sontuoso) in M. Peterson (ed.) The Prisoner’s Dilemma, Cambridge University Press, 2014

 “Norms and beliefs: How change occurs” (with H. Mercier), Iyyun: The Jerusalem Philosophical Quarterly 63, 2014. Reprinted in B. Edmonds (ed.) The Complexity of Social Norms. Springer 2014

“On the Emergence of Descriptive Norms", (with R. Muldoon, S. Hartmann, C. Lisciandra and J. Sprenger), Politics, Philosophy and Economics, 13 (1): 3-22, 2014

“Norms, Conventions and the Power of Expectations” in N. Cartwright (ed.) Philosophy of Social   Science, Oxford University Press, 2014

“Is participation contagious? Evidence from a household vector control campaign in urban Peru” (with A. Buttenheim et al.) Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, September 2013

“Third-Party sanctioning and compensation behavior: Findings from the ultimatum game” (with A. Chavez), Journal of Economic Psychology 39, 2013: 268-277

“Norm manipulation, norm evasion: Experimental evidence” (with A. Chavez), Economics and Philosophy 292013: 175–198

 “Self-serving Biases and Public Justification in Trust games” (with H. Mercier), Synthese 190, 5, 2013:  909-922

“Words or Deeds? Choosing what to Know about Others” (with Erte Xiao), Synthese, 187 (1): 49-63, 2012

“An Embarrassment of Riches: Modeling Social Preferences in Ultimatum games”, (with. Jiji Zhang) in U. Maki (ed.) Handbook of the Philosophy of Science, Volume 13: Philosophy of Economics, Elsevier 2012

Social Norms, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2011

 “Norms, Preferences and Conditional Behavior”, Politics, Philosophy and Economics 9(3): 297-313, 2010

"Studying the ethical implications of e-trust in the lab" (with Azi Lev-On), Ethics and Information Technology, 13 (1): 5-15, 2011

“Trusting is not a norm, but reciprocity is ”(with Erte Xiao and Ryan Muldoon), Politics, Philosophy and Economics,vol. 10, 2: 170-187, 2011

"Behaving as Expected: Public Information and Fairness Norms" (with Alex Chavez), Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 23 (2): 161-178, 2010.  Reprinted in Michael Baurmann / Geoffrey Brennan / Robert E. Goodin / Nicholas Southwood (editors): Norms and Values. The Role of Social Norms as Instruments of Value Realisation, Nomos Verlag, Baden-Baden, 2010

“When Equality Trumps Reciprocity” (with Erte Xiao), Journal of Economic Psychology 31 (3): 456-470, 2010 

“The Medium or the Message? Communication Richness and Relevance in Trust games” (with Azi Lev-On and Alex Chavez), Synthese 176 (1): 125-147, 2010

“Group and Dyadic Communication in Trust Games.” (with Azi Lev-On and Alex Chavez), Rationality and Society, 22(1), 2010

“Do the right thing: but only if others do so” (with Erte Xiao), Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 22: 191-208, 2009

“Rationality and Indeterminacy”, in D. Ross and H. Kinkaid (eds.) The Handbook of Philosophy of Economics, The Oxford Reference Library of Philosophy, Oxford University Press 2009: 159-188.

“The Fragility of Fairness: An Experimental Investigation on the Conditional Status of Pro-social Norms”, Nous(Philosophical Issues 18 Interdisciplinary Core Philosophy), 227-246, 2008

“Computer-Mediated Communication and Cooperation in Social Dilemmas: An Experimental Analysis” (with Azi Lev-On), Politics, Philosophy and Economics, vol.6:139-168, 2007

"Knowing and Supposing in Games of Perfect Information" (with Horacio Arlo-Costa). Studia Logica, Vol. 86, n.3: 353-373, 2007

“Game Theory: Some Personal Reflections," Game Theory 5 Questions, V. F. Hendricks and P. G. Hansen, eds, Automatic Press, 2007.


Norms in the Wild: how to Diagnose, Measure and Change Social Norms.  Oxford University Press, 2016 For more information, see

The Grammar of Society: the Nature and Dynamics of Social Norms, Cambridge University Press, 2006 For more information see

Rationality and Coordination, Cambridge University Press, 1993; Second edition, 1997. Italian translation, Feltrinelli, 1998

The Logic of Strategy, C. Bicchieri, R. Jeffrey and B. Skyrms (eds.), Oxford University Press, 1999

The Dynamics of Norms, C. Bicchieri, R. Jeffrey and B. Skyrms (eds.), Cambridge University Press, 1997

Knowledge, Belief, and Strategic Interaction, C. Bicchieri and M.L. dalla Chiara (eds.), Cambridge University Press 1992

Ragioni per Credere, Ragioni per Fare. Convenzioni e Vincoli nel Metodo Scientifico, Feltrinelli, Milano, 1988

(215) 898-5820

491 Cohen Hall