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

  • Avner Ben-Ner

    ()

  • Brian McCall

    ()

  • Massoud Stephane

    ()

  • Hua Wang

    ()

The asumption that behavior is independent of the identity of those who participate in an economic interaction is fundamental to economists’ understanding of how markets operate, how firms work internally, how nations trade with each other, and much else. In this paper, 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, albeit statistically significant, sources of differentiation between Self and Other. The importance of the source of identity varies with the type of behavior under consideration.

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Paper provided by Human Resources and Labor Studies, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities Campus) in its series Working Papers with number 0805.

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Handle: RePEc:hrr:papers:0805
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  1. Avner Ben-Ner & Louis Putterman, 1999. "Reciprocity in a Two Part Dictator Game," Working Papers 99-28, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  2. Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Andreoni,J. & Vesterlund,L., 1998. "Which is the fair sex? : Gender differences in altruism," Working papers 10, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  4. 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.
  5. Roland G. Fryer & Matthew O. Jackson, 2002. "Categorical Cognition: A Psychological Model of Categories and Identification in Decision Making," Microeconomics 0211002, EconWPA.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
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