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Self-Esteem, Shame and Personal Motivation

  • Dessi, Roberta
  • Zhao, Xiaojian

The available evidence from numerous studies in psychology suggests that overconfidence is a more important phenomenon in North America than in Japan. Relatedly, North Americans appear to view high self-esteem more positively than Japanese. The pattern is reversed when it comes to shame, a social emotion which appears to play a more important role among Japanese than North Americans. We develop an economic model that endogenizes these observed differences. A crucial tradeoff arises in the model between the benefits of encouraging self-improvement and the benefits of promoting initiative and new investments. In this context, self-esteem maintenance (self-enhancement) and high sensitivity to shame emerge as substitute mechanisms to induce efficient effort and investment decisions, generating a \North American" equilibrium with overconfidence and low sensitivity to shame, and a \Japanese" equilibrium with high sensitivity to shame and no overconfidence. The analysis identifies the key equilibrium costs as well as the benefits of reliance on each mechanism, and the implications for welfare.

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Paper provided by Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) in its series TSE Working Papers with number 10-191.

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Date of creation: Nov 2011
Date of revision: Dec 2013
Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:23211
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Web page: http://www.tse-fr.eu/

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  1. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Platt Boustan & Katherine Eriksson, 2010. "Europe's tired, poor, huddled masses: Self-selection and economic outcomes in the age of mass migration," NBER Working Papers 15684, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2008. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics," NBER Working Papers 13737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2009. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 51-104, February.
  4. Moriguchi, Chiaki & Ono, Hiroshi, 2004. "Japanese Lifetime Employment: A Century's Perspective," EIJS Working Paper Series 205, The European Institute of Japanese Studies.
  5. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
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