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Identity and Self-Other Differentiation in Work and Giving Behaviors: Experimental Evidence

  • Avner Ben-Ner

    (University of Minnesota)

  • Brian P. McCall

    (University of Minnesota)

  • Massoud Stephane

    (University of Minnesota)

  • Hua Wang

    (University of Minnesota)

We show that the distinction between Self and Other, ‘us’ and ‘them,’ or in-group and out-group, affects significantly economic and social behavior. In a series of experiments with approximately 200 Midwestern students as our subjects, we found that they favor those who are similar to them on any of a wide range of categories of identity over those who are not like them. Whereas family and kinship are the most powerful source of identity in our sample, all 13 potential sources of identity in our experiments affect behavior. We explored individuals’ willingness to give money to imaginary people, using a dictator game setup with hypothetical money. Our experiments with hypothetical money generate essentially identical data to our experiments with actual money. We also investigated individuals’ willingness to share an office with, commute with, and work on a critical project critical to their advancement with individuals who are similar to themselves (Self) along a particular identity dimension than with individuals who are dissimilar (Other). In addition to family, our data point to other important sources of identity such as political views, religion, sports-team loyalty, and music preferences, followed by television-viewing habits, dress type preferences, birth order, body type, socio-economic status and gender. The importance of the source of identity varies with the type of behavior under consideration.

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Paper provided by Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in its series Working Papers with number 2006.103.

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Date of creation: Aug 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2006.103
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  1. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2002. "Identity and Schooling: Some Lessons for the Economics of Education," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1167-1201, December.
  2. Ben-Ner, Avner & Kong, Fanmin & Putterman, Louis, 2004. "Share and share alike? Gender-pairing, personality, and cognitive ability as determinants of giving," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 581-589, October.
  3. Boone, Christophe & De Brabander, Bert & van Witteloostuijn, Arjen, 1999. "The impact of personality on behavior in five Prisoner's Dilemma games," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 343-377, June.
  4. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
  5. Bornhorst, Fabian & Ichino, Andrea & Schlag, Karl & Winter, Eyal, 2004. "Trust and Trustworthiness Among Europeans: South-North Comparison," CEPR Discussion Papers 4378, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Ben-Ner, Avner & Putterman, Louis & Kong, Fanmin & Magan, Dan, 2004. "Reciprocity in a two-part dictator game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 53(3), pages 333-352, March.
  7. James Andreoni & Lise Vesterlund, 2001. "Which Is The Fair Sex? Gender Differences In Altruism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 293-312, February.
  8. 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.
  9. Edward L. Glaeser & David I. Laibson & José A. Scheinkman & Christine L. Soutter, 2000. "Measuring Trust," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 811-846, August.
    • Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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