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Social Memory and Evidence from the Past

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Abstract

Examples of repeated destructive behavior abound throughout the history of human societies. This paper examines the role of social memory -- a society's vicarious beliefs about the past -- in creating and perpetuating destructive conflicts. We examine whether such behavior is consistent with the theory of rational strategic behavior. We analyze an infinite-horizon model in which two countries face off each period in an extended Prisoner's Dilemma game in which an additional possibility of mutually destructive "all out war" yields catastrophic consequence for both sides. Each country is inhabited by a dynastic sequence of individuals who care about future individuals in the same country, and can communicate with the next generation of their countrymen using private messages. The two countries' actions in each period also produce physical evidence; a sequence of informative but imperfect public signals that can be observed by all current and future individuals. We find that, provided the future is sufficiently important for all individuals, regardless of the precision of physical evidence from the past there is an equilibrium of the model in which the two countries' social memory is systematically wrong, and in which the two countries engage in all out war with arbitrarily high frequency. Surprisingly, we find that degrading the quality of information that individuals have about current decisions may "improve" social memory so that it can no longer be systematically wrong. This in turn ensures that arbitrarily frequent all out wars cannot take place.

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File URL: http://cowles.econ.yale.edu/P/cd/d16a/d1601.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University in its series Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers with number 1601.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1601

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Keywords: Social memory; Private communication; Dynastic games; Physical evidence;

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Guido Tabellini, 2008. "The Scope of Cooperation: Values and Incentives," CESifo Working Paper Series 2236, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Luca Anderlini & Dino Gerardi & Roger Lagunoff, 2004. "The Folk Theorem in Dynastic Repeated Games," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1490, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. Luca Anderlini & Dino Gerardi & Roger Lagunoff, 2006. "A 'Super' Folk Theorem for Dynastic Repeated Games," Working Papers gueconwpa~06-06-01, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
  4. Amodio, Francesco, 2012. "Hard to Forget: Long-lasting E ffects of Social Capital Accumulation Shocks," AICCON Working Papers 105-2012, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
  5. Luca Anderlini & Dino Gerardi & Roger Lagunoff, 2012. "Communication and Learning," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(2), pages 419-450.
  6. Guido Tabellini, 2007. "Institutions and Culture," Working Papers 330, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  7. Adriani, Fabrizio & Sonderegger, Silvia, 2009. "Why do parents socialize their children to behave pro-socially? An information-based theory," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1119-1124, December.
  8. Conconi, Paola & Sahuguet, Nicolas & Zanardi, Maurizio, 2008. "Democratic Peace and Electoral Accountability¤," CEPR Discussion Papers 6908, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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