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Putting a price tag on others’ perceptions of us

Author

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  • Yohanes E. Riyanto

    (Nanyang Technological University)

  • Jianlin Zhang

    (Singapore Institute of Management)

Abstract

Standard economic theories assume that people are self-interested and their wellbeing solely dependent on their own material gains or losses. Unless they have an impact on monetary payoffs, the perceptions of anonymous individuals are irrelevant to people’s decision making. However, a large body of research in sociology and social psychology demonstrates that self-identity is developed through one’s understanding of how one is perceived by others. Using (Cooley’s, Human nature and the social order, 1964) concept of the “looking-glass self” as a framework, we evaluate experimentally whether or not people care about the imputed judgment of anonymous others arising from their imagination of their perceptions. We implemented variants of the Becker–DeGroot–Marschak mechanism to elicit the monetary value attached to the perceptions by participants. In one variant, only nonnegative bids were allowed, while in another, negative bids were allowed. We show that in an environment in which the perceptions of others are only conveyed to participants anonymously and privately, self-interested individuals exhibited strong negative perception avoidance even though the perceptions have no impact on their monetary payoff. The participants were willing to spend a significant amount in order to avoid confirming the supposedly negative perception. Thus, for them, ignorance was truly bliss. We also show that, in the absence of the audience effect, the fair-minded participants adopted a neutral attitude towards the perception of them as fair.

Suggested Citation

  • Yohanes E. Riyanto & Jianlin Zhang, 2016. "Putting a price tag on others’ perceptions of us," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(2), pages 480-499, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:19:y:2016:i:2:d:10.1007_s10683-015-9450-3
    DOI: 10.1007/s10683-015-9450-3
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    Cited by:

    1. Henry, Emeric & Sonntag, Jan, 2019. "Measuring image concern," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 160(C), pages 19-39.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social image; The value of other’s perceptions; Pay to reveal; Pay to conceal; Dictator game;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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