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Essays on the economics of social identity, social preferences and social image

Abstract : The present dissertation studies three social determinants of economic decisions: Social Identity, Social Image, and Social preferences. The first chapter reports on an experiment testing the effect of upward social mobility on interpersonal trust. Individuals are characterized both by a natural group identity and by a status awarded by means of relative performance in a task in which natural identities strongly predict performance. Upward mobility is characterized by the access to the high status of individuals belonging to the natural group associated with a lower expected performance. We find that socially mobile individuals trust less than those who are not socially mobile, both when the trustee belongs to the same natural group or to the other natural group. In contrast, upward mobility does not affect trustworthiness. We find no evidence that interacting with an upwardly mobile individual impacts trust or trustworthiness. In the second chapter, we test whether individuals internalize the effects of their behavior on the social image of their group. In our experiment, we recruit pairs of real-life friends and study whether misreporting decreases when it may have negative spillovers on the image of the friend. We find that participants hurt their friends' social image by misreporting: external observers update their beliefs and rightfully expect that a participant whose friend misreported is likely to misreport himself. However, participants misreport as often when their behavior can hurt the friend's image as when it cannot, even though hurting their friends' image reduces their own monetary gains. Our interpretation is that they underestimate the impact of their behavior on external observers' beliefs about their friends. Our results show that, even in our case where group membership is salient, groups might have difficulties building a good image. The good news is that external observers may use image spillovers to update their beliefs and interact with members of groups more efficiently. In the third chapter, we experimentally test whether the salience of counter-factual payoffs impacts generosity. Participants first perform a real-effort task for a fixed wage, and then play a dictator game. Between conditions, we vary the level and the timing of the revelation of the wage. In some conditions, participants know the wage before the real effort task, and are not informed of the other potential levels. In some other conditions, they are informed of the distribution of the wages before the real effort task, but the actual wage is only revealed afterward. Our hypothesis is that participants in the latter conditions evaluate their actual wage relative to the other potential levels, which in turns impact their transfers in the subsequent dictator game. The results support this hypothesis: participants who get a the high wage tend to transfer more when they are informed of the other potential levels than when they are not. Symmetrically, participants who get the low wage tend to transfer less when they are informed of the other potential levels than when they are not.
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Rémi Suchon. Essays on the economics of social identity, social preferences and social image. Economics and Finance. Université de Lyon, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018LYSEN080⟩. ⟨tel-02070900⟩

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