IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/cca/wpaper/50.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Identity, Dignity and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets

Author

Listed:
  • Roland Bénabou
  • Jean Tirole

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2007. "Identity, Dignity and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 50, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  • Handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:50
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.carloalberto.org/assets/working-papers/no.50.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Battaglini, Marco & Benabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2005. "Self-control in peer groups," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 123(2), pages 105-134, August.
    2. John Smith, 2012. "Reputation, Social Identity and Social Conflict," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 14(4), pages 677-709, August.
    3. Ulrich Horst & Alan Kirman & Miriam Teschl, 2006. "Changing Identity: The Emergence of Social Groups," Working Papers halshs-00410853, HAL.
    4. 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.
    5. Rabin, Matthew, 1994. "Cognitive dissonance and social change," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 177-194, March.
    6. Kopczuk Wojciech & Slemrod Joel, 2005. "Denial of Death and Economic Behavior," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-26, August.
    7. 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.
    8. Roland G. Fryer & Matthew O. Jackson, 2002. "Categorical Cognition: A Psychological Model of Categories and Identification in Decision Making," Microeconomics 0211002, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. David B. Audretsch & Erik E. Lehmann, 2013. "Corporate governance in newly listed companies," Chapters,in: Handbook of Research on IPOs, chapter 9, pages 179-206 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Afridi, Farzana & Li, Sherry Xin & Ren, Yufei, 2015. "Social identity and inequality: The impact of China's hukou system," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 17-29.
    3. Eyckmans, Johan & Kverndokk, Snorre, 2010. "Moral concerns on tradable pollution permits in international environmental agreements," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(9), pages 1814-1823, July.
    4. Amelie F. Constant & Klaus F. Zimmermann, 2011. "Migration, Ethnicity and Economic Integration," Chapters,in: International Handbook on the Economics of Integration, Volume III, chapter 7 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Bertrand, Marianne, 2011. "New Perspectives on Gender," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    6. Michael Kremer, Tom Wilkening, 2010. "Protecting Antiquities: A Role for Long-Term Leases?," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 1114, The University of Melbourne.
    7. Zuazu Bermejo, Izaskun, 2018. "Cultural Values, Family Decisions and Gender Segregation in Higher Education: Evidence from 26 OECD Economies," IKERLANAK Ikerlanak;2018-107, Universidad del País Vasco - Departamento de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico I.
    8. Goette, Lorenz & Stutzer, Alois, 2008. "Blood donations and incentives : evidence from a field experiment," Working papers 2008/05, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
    9. Constant, Amelie F. & Gataullina, Liliya & Zimmermann, Klaus F., 2009. "Ethnosizing immigrants," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 274-287, March.
    10. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2009. "Over My Dead Body: Bargaining and the Price of Dignity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 459-465, May.
    11. Fernando Aguiar & Pablo Branas-Garza & Maria Paz Espinosa & Luis Miller, 2010. "Personal identity: a theoretical and experimental analysis," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(3), pages 261-275.
    12. Amelie F. Constant & Klaus F. Zimmermann, 2008. "Measuring Ethnic Identity and its Impact on Economic Behavior," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 424-433, 04-05.
    13. 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.
    14. Krysiak, Frank C. & Oberauner, Iris Maria, 2010. "Environmental policy à la carte: Letting firms choose their regulation," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 221-232, November.
    15. Nmadu, Job N. & Simpa, James O., 2014. "Rethinking The Technical Efficiency Of Small Scale Yam Farmers In Nigeria Using Conventional And Non-Conventional Inefficiency Parameters," 2014 Conference (58th), February 4-7, 2014, Port Macquarie, Australia 165866, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    16. Constant, Amelie F. & Nottmeyer, Olga & Zimmermann, Klaus F., 2009. "Cultural Integration in Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 4675, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Guido Tabellini, 2008. "The Scope of Cooperation: Values and Incentives," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(3), pages 905-950.
    18. Brousseau, Eric & Garrouste, Pierre & Raynaud, Emmanuel, 2011. "Institutional changes: Alternative theories and consequences for institutional design," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 3-19.
    19. Alaoui, Larbi, 2008. "The value of useless information," MPRA Paper 11411, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. Yan Chen & Sherry Xin Li, 2009. "Group Identity and Social Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 431-457, March.
    21. Panos Mavrokonstantis, 2015. "Modern Family: Female Breadwinners and the Intergenerational Transmission of Gender Norms," STICERD - Public Economics Programme Discussion Papers 27, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    identity; self-serving beliefs; self-image; memory; wishful thinking; anticipatory utility; self control; hedonic treadmill; inefficient bargaining; taboos; religion.;

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. 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). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/fccaait.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.