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Meaning and function in the theory of consumer choice: dual selves in evolving networks

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  • Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten

Abstract

Building on the philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce, recent advances in biosemiotics have resulted into a concise framework for the analysis of signs in living systems. This paper explores the potential for economics and shows how biosemiotics can integrate two different research agendas, each of which are also connected with biological theories, namely neuroeconomics and the theory of networks. I introduce the triadic conceptual framework established by Peirce which distinguishes between object, sign and interpretant and the corresponding causal forces in evolving hierarchical systems. This framework is used to systematize recent results of neuroeconomics in the form of the dual selves approach, following early contributions of James Coleman, partitioning the individual into the acting self and the object self. This distinction implies that there is a fundamental information asymmetry between the two selves. Against this background, the semeiotic process is an information generating and processing dynamics, which is driven by the internal selection of classificatory schemes of actions chosen and the population level dynamics of sign selection, with mimetic behavior as a driver. This can be further analyzed by means of the theory of signal selection. A central insight is that the internal information gap between acting self and object self implies a systematic role of sign processing in social networks for any kind of consumer choice. I exemplify my approach with empirical references to food consumption as a most universal and simple form of consumer choice.

Suggested Citation

  • Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten, 2010. "Meaning and function in the theory of consumer choice: dual selves in evolving networks," Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series 153, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:fsfmwp:153
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    2. Dietmar Harhoff & Elisabeth Mueller & John Van Reenen, 2014. "What are the Channels for Technology Sourcing? Panel Data Evidence from German Companies," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(1), pages 204-224, March.
    3. Kostka, Genia & Moslener, Ulf & Andreas, Jan G., 2011. "Barriers to energy efficiency improvement: Empirical evidence from small-and-medium sized enterprises in China," Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series 178, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
    4. Alexander Libman & Vladimir Kozlov & André Schultz, 2012. "Roving Bandits in Action: Outside Option and Governmental Predation in Autocracies," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(4), pages 526-562, November.
    5. Yu, Xiaofan, 2011. "A spatial interpretation of the persistency of China's provincial inequality," Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series 171, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
    6. Boeing, Philipp & Mueller, Elisabeth & Sandner, Philipp, 2012. "What makes Chinese firms productive? Learning from indigenous and foreign sources of knowledge," Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series 196, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
    7. Böing, Philipp & Müller, Elisabeth, 2012. "Technological Capabilities of Chinese Enterprises: Who is Going to Compete Abroad?," VfS Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century 62081, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    consumer choice; biosemiotics; dual selves; networks; signal selection;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Modern Monetary Theory;
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics

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