Identity, Morals and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets

Bénabou, Roland and Tirole, Jean (2011) Identity, Morals and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126 (2). pp. 805-855.

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We develop a theory of moral behavior, individual and collective, based on a general model of identity in which people care about “who they are” and infer their own values from past choices. The model sheds light on many empirical puzzles inconsistent with earlier approaches. Identity investments respond nonmonotonically to acts or threats, and taboos on mere thoughts arise to protect beliefs about the “priceless” value of certain social assets. High endowments trigger escalating commitment and a treadmill effect, while competing identities can cause dysfunctional capital destruction. Social interactions induce both social and antisocial norms of contribution, sustained by respectively shunning free riders or do-gooders.

Item Type: Article
Language: English
Date: May 2011
Refereed: Yes
Divisions: TSE-R (Toulouse)
Site: UT1
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2012 05:45
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2018 13:20

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