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Tra i Leoni: Revealing the Preferences Behind a Superstition

Author

Listed:
  • Invernizzi, Giovanna
  • Miller, Joshua Benjamin

    (The University of Melbourne)

  • Coen, Tommaso
  • Dufwenberg, Martin
  • Oliveira, Luiz Edgard R.

Abstract

We investigate a superstition for which adherence is nearly universal. Using a combination of field interventions that involve unsuspecting participants and a lab-style value elicitation, we measure the strength of peoples' underlying preferences, and to what extent their behavior is driven by social conformity rather than the superstition itself. Our findings indicate that both mechanisms influence behavior. While a substantial number of people are willing to incur a relatively high individual cost in order to adhere to the superstition, for many, adherence is contingent on the the behavior of others. Our findings suggest that it is the conforming nature of the majority that sustains the false beliefs of the minority.

Suggested Citation

  • Invernizzi, Giovanna & Miller, Joshua Benjamin & Coen, Tommaso & Dufwenberg, Martin & Oliveira, Luiz Edgard R., 2019. "Tra i Leoni: Revealing the Preferences Behind a Superstition," OSF Preprints c5hxs, Center for Open Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:osf:osfxxx:c5hxs
    DOI: 10.31219/osf.io/c5hxs
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    File URL: https://osf.io/download/5c3e86518047080019fc9aed/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. B. Douglas Bernheim & Christine L. Exley, 2015. "Understanding Conformity: An Experimental Investigation," Harvard Business School Working Papers 16-070, Harvard Business School.
    2. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-877, October.
    3. Bayer, Ya'akov M. & Ruffle, Bradley J. & Shtudiner, Zeev & Zultan, Ro'i, 2018. "Costly superstitious beliefs: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 30-43.
    4. Thomas Kramer & Lauren Block, 2008. "Conscious and Nonconscious Components of Superstitious Beliefs in Judgment and Decision Making," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(6), pages 783-793, October.
    5. Johnson, Noel D. & Nye, John V.C., 2011. "Does fortune favor dragons?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 78(1-2), pages 85-97, April.
    6. Ka-Fu Wong & Linda Yung, 2005. "Do Dragons Have Better Fate?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 43(3), pages 689-697, July.
    7. Yip, Paul S. F. & Lee, Joseph & Cheung, Y. B., 2002. "The influence of the Chinese zodiac on fertility in Hong Kong SAR," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(10), pages 1803-1812, November.
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