The Self-Image Signaling Roles of Voice in Decision-Making
The desire to voice opinions has driven democracy movements and fueled the growth of social media. However, it is unclear why people value voice, and whether exercising voice affects subsequent behavior. Models of identity and self-inference posit that voice has value as a self-image signal: by speaking up, we demonstrate to ourselves that we possess desirable qualities. We investigate whether words can substitute for more costly actions that also self-signal desirable qualities – such as the act of rejecting an unfair offer in the ultimatum game. Our experiment modifies the ultimatum game to allow responders to bid to voice their opinions to a third party with no influence over the outcome of the game. We find that 63% of responders are willing to pay an average of 34% of their endowments for the opportunity for voice, even when their messages are not communicated to the proposer and have no strategic value. Crucially, expressing voice to a third party results in responders being willing to accept offers that are 15% lower. We find contrasting results – responders demand higher offers – in a comparison treatment where voice is communicated to the proposer. Our results suggest encouraging the expression of voice may ease acceptance of unpopular decisions, but only when people perceive their self-image will not be harmed.
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