Professor Eric A. Posner has written a fascinating book about "Law and Social Norms." In it, he uses an informal signaling model (derived from Michael Spence's formal model) to explain a wide range of striking social behavior, and to show underlying connections among apparently disparate phenomena. Looking at topics as dissimilar as gift giving, family law, criminal law, voting and political participation, and commercial practice, he argues that much of observed social behavior can be understood as the result of attempts to signal that one is a good cooperator.
Edward Rock & Michael Wachter,
Meeting by Signals, Playing by Norms: Complementary Accounts of Nonlegal Cooperation in Institutions,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.richmond.edu/lawreview/vol36/iss2/6