Identity, Dignity and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets
We analyze social and economic phenomena involving beliefs which people value and invest in, for affective or functional reasons. Individuals are at times uncertain about their own deep values and infer them from their past choices, which then come to define who they are. Identity investments increase when information is scarce or when a greater endowment of some asset (wealth, career, family, culture) raises the stakes on viewing it as valuable (escalating commitments). Taboos against transactions or the mere contemplation of tradeoffs arise to protect fragile beliefs about the priceless value of certain assets (life, freedom, love, faith) or things one would never do. Whether such behaviors are welfare-enhancing or reducing depends on whether beliefs are sought for a functional value (sense of direction, self-discipline) or for mental consumption motives (self-esteem, anticipatory feelings). Escalating commitments can thus lead to a hedonic treadmill, and competing identities cause dysfunctional failures to invest in high-return activities (education, adapting to globalization, assimilation), or even the destruction of productive assets. In social interactions, norm violations elicit a forceful response (exclusion, harassment) when they threaten a strongly held identity, but further erode morale when it was initially weak. Concerns for pride, dignity or wishful thinking lead to the inefficient breakdown of Coasian bargaining even under symmetric information, as partners seek to self-enhance and shift blame by turning down insultingly low offers.
|Date of creation:||2007|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: Via Real Collegio, 30, 10024 Moncalieri (To)|
Web page: http://www.carloalberto.org/
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Matthew Rabin., 1991.
"Cognitive Dissonance and Social Change,"
Economics Working Papers
91-180, University of California at Berkeley.
- John Smith, 2007.
"Reputation, Social Identity and Social Conflict,"
Departmental Working Papers
200709, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
- Oxoby, Robert J., 2003. "Attitudes and allocations: status, cognitive dissonance, and the manipulation of attitudes," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 365-385, November.
- Jackson, Matthew O. & Fryer Jr., Roland G., 2002.
"Categorical Cognition: A Psychological Model of Categories and Identification in Decision Making,"
1144, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Matthew O. Jackson, 2003. "Categorical Cognition: A Psychological Model of Categories and Identification in Decision Making," NBER Working Papers 9579, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Roland G. Fryer & Matthew O. Jackson, 2002. "Categorical Cognition: A Psychological Model of Categories and Identification in Decision Making," Microeconomics 0211002, EconWPA.
- Wojciech Kopczuk & Joel Slemrod, 2005.
"Denial of Death and Economic Behavior,"
NBER Working Papers
11485, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Juan D. Carrillo & Thomas Mariotti, 2000. "Strategic Ignorance as a Self-Disciplining Device," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(3), pages 529-544.
- Ulrich Horst & Alan Kirman & Miriam Teschl, 2006.
"Changing Identity: The Emergence of Social Groups,"
- Wichardt, Philipp C., 2007. "Why and How Identity Should Influence Utility," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 193, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:50. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Giovanni Bert)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.