Clemens Kroneberg, Meir Yaish, Volker Stocké
Norms and Rationality in Electoral Participation and in the Rescue of Jews in WWII: An Application of the Model of Frame Selection

Rationality and Society, 2010: 22, issue 1, pp. 3-36
ISSN: 1043-4631

The rescue of Jews in WWII and electoral participation both constitute prominent puzzles for rational choice theories of human behavior and have given rise to lengthy debates about norms and rationality. To explain both phenomena, we apply the Model of Frame Selection. This theory of action provides an integrated account of norms and rationality, where cost-benefit calculus is replaced by unconditional norm conformity if actors hold strongly activated normative convictions. In support of this hypothesis, our empirical analyses show that strong feelings of social responsibility led actors to disregard the risks of helping. Likewise, intense norms of civic duty can make electoral participation independent of the incentive to express political preferences and the expectation to influence the election outcome. At the same time, the real strength of calculated incentives is revealed by identifying the actors who indeed seem to engage in a reflecting—calculating mode of decision-making.