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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. Classification-JEL Codes: C72, C79, D80, D83, D89

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Paper provided by Georgetown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number gueconwpa~07-07-01.

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Date of creation: 01 Jul 2007
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Handle: RePEc:geo:guwopa:gueconwpa~07-07-01

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Postal: Georgetown University Department of Economics Washington, DC 20057-1036
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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. 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.
  2. Adriani, Fabrizio & Sonderegger, Silvia, 2009. "Why do parents socialize their children to behave pro-socially? An information-based theory," MPRA Paper 16107, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Luca Anderlini & Dino Gerardi & Roger Lagunoff, 2006. "A 'Super' Folk Theorem for Dynastic Repeated Games," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000664, UCLA Department of Economics.
  4. Guido Tabellini, 2007. "Institutions and Culture," Working Papers 330, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  5. Anderlini, Luca & Gerardi, Dino & Lagunoff, Roger, 2008. "Communication and Learning," Working Papers 37, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  6. Guido Tabellini, 2007. "The Scope of Cooperation: values and incentives," Working Papers 328, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  7. 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.
  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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