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Taboos and Identity: Considering the Unthinkable

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  • Chaim Fershtman
  • Uri Gneezy
  • Moshe Hoffman

Abstract

A taboo is an "unthinkable" action. Even the thought of violating a taboo triggers a punishment. We consider a model in which taboos are part of the definition of one's identity. Deliberating over breaking the taboo changes the individual's choice set, and provides information on possible private benefits. The strength of the taboo is determined by the number of individuals that obey it. We analyze the relationship between social heterogeneity and taboos' strength. We then examine societies in which individuals choose among several identities characterized by different taboos. We characterize the conditions that give rise to a multi-identity society. (JEL Z13)

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Microeconomics.

Volume (Year): 3 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 139-64

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmic:v:3:y:2011:i:2:p:139-64

Note: DOI: 10.1257/mic.3.2.139
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  1. Akerlof, George A, 1976. "The Economics of Caste and of the Rat Race and Other Woeful Tales," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 599-617, November.
  2. Akerlof, George A, 1980. "A Theory of Social Custom, of Which Unemployment May be One Consequence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(4), pages 749-75, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Cervellati, Matteo & Vanin, Paolo, 2013. ""Thou Shalt Not Covet ...": Prohibitions, Temptation and Moral Values," IZA Discussion Papers 7334, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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