Centre for Development Economics
Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics


Self-Categorization, Depersonalization and Rational Choice


Abhinash Borah

Shiv Nadar University

Thursday, 24th September 2015 at 3:00 PM

Venue : Seminar Room (First Floor)
Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics

All are cordially invited

Many strands in social psychology, as opposed to economics, argue that individual behavior is socially determined, with an individual's perception of social categories playing an important role in this determination. For instance, self-categorization theory (SCT) argues that an individual's cognition of self occurs through a process of drawing similarities with certain social categories (the ingroup) and distinctions from others (the outgroup). Further, individual behavior embodies a sense of depersonalization, reflecting group attitudes rather than inherent tastes. In this paper, we study whether the traditional notion of rational behavior in economics can be reconciled with this worldview. Specifically, we ask if an individual is born into a society whose inhabitants are rational in the economic sense, can this individual learn to behave rationally in this sense based on observing the choices of these existing members of society and internalizing this data through the prism of a process akin to self-categorization and depersonalization? We show that this question can be answered in the affirmative if this individual's ingroup-outgroup categorization is such that her perception of intergroup differences are of a higher order than intragroup differences, a property that is akin to the meta-contrast principle of SCT. As an illustration of our theory, we apply it to explain the phenomenon of minority influence.

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