"Choice and Self" session at 2013 Choice Symposium
Preliminary Schedule (subject to revision)


Thursday, June 13
*8:30, Introductory comments—OLEG URMINSKY
Day 1, Session 1, 8:30ish-10:00, DANIEL READ—Time preference and identity
Day 1, Session 2, 10:30-12:00, DAN BARTELS—Psychological connectedness to the future self
Day 1, Session 3, 13:30-15:00, LANCE RIPS—Individual concepts
Day 1, Session 4, 15:30-17:00, SHAUN NICHOLS—Two senses of self

Friday, June 14
Day 2, Session 1, 8:30-10:00, PAOLA GIULIANO—Cultural roots of gender identity
Day 2, Session 2, 10:30-12:00, MICHEL MARECHAL—Identity and honesty

Saturday, June 15
Day 3, Session 1, 8:30-10:00, RACHEL KRANTON—Identity, group conflict, and social preferences
Day 3, Session 2, 10:30-12:00, CHRISTIAN WHEELER—Identity threat and expressing opinions
Day 3, Session 3, 13:30-15:00, OLEG URMINSKY—Optimism and identity choice
Day 3, Session 4, 15:30-17:00, STEFANO PUNTONI—Comparative optimism
*17:00ish, Discussion of session summary to be reported in Sunday plenary session

Abstracts


1. DANIEL READ

The philosophy of personal identification (or "you") and the behavioural economics of intertemporal choice are closely interlinked in that they both concern a relationship of care between individuals (dangerous as that concept is) separated in time.  In my presentation, I will briefly and I fear superficially consider the relationship between these two disciplines.  I will discuss what empirical questions might arise from thinking about the economics in the light of philosophy, and more tentatively about what philosophical questions might arise from thinking about the philosophy in the light of the economics.

I will also report some recent empirical investigations of intertemporal choice, and reflect on what they might say about how we identify with our future selves.  This research, joint work with Chris Olivola and Dave Hardisty, builds on the "hidden zero effect." Our results suggest that an asymmetry in this effect (to be recounted in the meeting) might suggest something about our ability to identify with the feelings of our future selves.

The following paper, while not new, might entertain some of you: http://home.uchicago.edu/~bartels/ChoiceSymposium2013/01-Read.pdf

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2. DAN BARTELS

Many of life's decisions involve trading off consumption or happiness in the immediate future with (more) consumption or happiness delayed to the more distant future (see, e.g., Daniel Read's talk above). However, your distant future self may be a very different person than you are now, and we show that this factor influences intertemporal preferences.  A decision maker is more closely linked, in terms of psychological properties, such as beliefs, values, and goals, to the person (her future self) tomorrow than to the person she'll be in 10 years. For this reason, she may prefer to allocate benefits to her more connected, sooner self at the expense of her less connected, later self. We find that feeling more connected to the future self motivates people to make decisions that they recognize as more thrifty and prudent. In a series of studies, we show that people choose impatiently over periods of time in which they anticipate the greatest change in their identity, and that when people's continuity with their future self is reduced experimentally, they accept smaller, sooner rewards, wait less in order to save money on a purchase, and are willing to spend more to expedite receipt of a gift card. We further find that financial decision-making in the present is jointly affected by both the motivation to provide for one's future self and awareness of the long-term implications of one's choices, such that when opportunity costs are prompted, manipulating connectedness affects choices by changing the valuation of future outcomes (as measured by discount factors), and this results in reduced discretionary spending. In other words, the valuation of future outcomes affects intertemporal choices when people are either explicitly reminded of or spontaneously consider tradeoffs between their short-run and long-run interests.

Paper 1: http://home.uchicago.edu/~bartels/ChoiceSymposium2013/02a-Bartels.pdf

Paper 2: http://home.uchicago.edu/~bartels/ChoiceSymposium2013/02b-Bartels.pdf

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3. LANCE RIPS

An object's identity over time often contributes to the object's value. In the case of people, it can determine rights and responsibilities. In this talk, I describe a psychological model of object identity, based on Robert Nozicks Closest Continuer theory. According to the model, an object at one time is identical to an object at an earlier time if it's the causally closest of all the close-enough contenders. Ill present some new evidence supporting the model, using participants' choice of antecedent for pronouns in sentence pairs, such as Charlie pursued Paul through the crowd. He caught up a few minutes later. A mathematical version of the model can predict the antecedent (e.g., Charlie, Paul, or neither, for the pronoun he), based on the inferred causal connections between the referent of the subject or object nouns of the first sentence and the referent of the pronoun. I'll also discuss results from earlier studies that attempt to distinguish the model from ones that depend on similarity and spatio-temporal continuity.

Paper: http://home.uchicago.edu/~bartels/ChoiceSymposium2013/03-Rips.pdf

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4. SHAUN NICHOLS

Philosophers have uncovered apparently conflicting patterns of intuitions about personal identity (e.g., Williams 1970; Sider 2001). In some cases, it seems that personal identity depends on the continuity of psychological properties; in other cases, it seems that personal identity is preserved despite a radical discontinuity in psychological properties. Survey studies have shown a similar split in how ordinary people think about the self (Nichols & Bruno 2011). This talk will report a series of new studies in which we manipulated how people think about the stability of their traits (a la Bartels & Urminsky 2011). We find that this affects economic decisions and allotment of punishment, but not other future concerns. I'll suggest that these results follow from two different senses of self. The proposal that there are two senses of self is bolstered by research on amnesia patients (Klein et al. 2004; Klein & Nichols 2013).

Paper: http://home.uchicago.edu/~bartels/ChoiceSymposium2013/04-Nichols.docx

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5. PAOLO GIULIANO

The study examines the historical origins of existing cross-cultural differences in beliefs and values regarding the appropriate role of women in society. We test the hypothesis that traditional agricultural practices influenced the historical gender division of labor and the evolution of gender norms. We find that, consistent with existing hypotheses, the descendants of societies that traditionally practiced plough agriculture today have less equal gender norms, measured using reported gender-role attitudes and female participation in the workplace, politics, and entrepreneurial activities. Our results hold looking across countries, across districts within countries, and across ethnicities within districts. To test for the importance of cultural persistence, we examine the children of immigrants living in Europe and the United States. We find that even among these individuals, all born and raised in the same country, those with a heritage of traditional plough use exhibit less equal beliefs about gender roles today.

Paper: http://home.uchicago.edu/~bartels/ChoiceSymposium2013/05-Giuliano.pdf

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6. MICHEL MARECHAL

The accumulation of fraud scandals in the financial industry has spurred a controversial policy debate about the role of professional culture in unethical business practices. We conducted an economic experiment with employees from an internationally operating bank to identify the causal effect of professional culture on dishonesty in the banking industry. We exogenously increased the saliency of the professional identity in bank employees' minds and subsequently measured their dishonesty in a task in which they could manipulate their payoffs without any danger of being detected or sanctioned. Our results show that bank employees behaved mostly honest in the control treatment, but they cheated significantly when their professional identity was made more salient. We conducted two additional control experiments with managers from various other industries and students, demonstrating that the observed treatment effect is specific to individuals working in the banking industry. Taken together, our findings suggest that the prevailing professional culture in the banking industry breeds dishonest behavior.

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7. RACHEL KRANTON

This paper presents a novel experiment on group conflict. Subjects are divided into groups according to preferences on paintings, and subjects are divided into groups according to self-declared political affiliations and leanings. Using a unique within subject design, we find twenty percent of subjects destroy social welfare – at personal cost – when facing a subject outside their group. This effect relates to individual identities. Some participants do not react to the minimal group treatment, but do react to the political treatment. Democrats and Republicans, in contrast to Independents, behave more selfishly and destructively towards out-group members. The results reveal systematic heterogeneity in social preferences, which depend on the social context.

Paper: http://home.uchicago.edu/~bartels/ChoiceSymposium2013/07-Kranton.pdf

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8. CHRISTIAN WHEELER

Consumer identity has been shown to have a wide variety of effects on consumer persuasion and consumer choice.  People prefer and engage in greater elaboration of advertisements that match their identities and personality characteristics.  They also use products to express, shape, and bolster their identities.  Although a great deal of research has shown how particular identity characteristics (e.g., traits or group memberships) shape evaluative outcomes such as persuasion and choice, less research has shown how other characteristics of those identities, such as their clarity, consistency, or certainty, can themselves be influential.  That is the focus of the present research.

Prior work has shown that when people's identities are threatened, they engage in compensatory processes.  For example, when people are made to feel powerless, they choose consumer products that bolster their feelings of power.  Under some circumstances, people may lack clarity about who they are.  For example, in periods of transition (e.g., graduation) or turmoil (e.g., failing to get tenure), people may feel that they do not have a clear and coherent self-definition.  Lacking confidence, clarity, and consistency in the self-concept is aversive and associated with negative consequences.  As a result, when people lack self-certainty or self-concept clarity, they will attempt to regain it, particularly if they are prone to defensive responding.  One way they can do so is through the expression and adoption of unique and controversial opinions.  Prior work in psychology has shown that people identify themselves and others by those things that make them unique or different from others.  That is, unique attributes are perceived to be more self-defining.  Hence, we propose that when people are led to doubt who they are, they will seek differentiation from others in their opinions.

Studies to be presented in this session show that those who are made to lack certainty or clarity in their self-concepts are more likely to express minority opinions (i.e., opinions that differ from the majority of others), particularly if they are prone to defensive responding (e.g., if they are high in defensive self-esteem).  They will also show that those lacking self-certainty are more likely to be persuaded by minority sources, but only when the issue is personally important and when the source provides strong and compelling arguments.  Those lacking clarity in the self-concept are also more likely to choose products that are polarizing, even when those products are rated more negatively overall, because polarizing products are perceived to be more self-defining.    The studies as a whole suggest that when people do not have a certain, clear, and coherent sense of themselves they will strategically adopt and express opinions that help them regain clarity.

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9. OLEG URMINSKY

People often spontaneously apply "recency beliefs” to form predictions of future outcomes based on prior outcomes. Different recency beliefs in the same context (e.g. that future outcomes are either positively or negatively correlated with recent outcomes) can lead to starkly different anticipations for the same future outcome. We propose that these anticipations of future outcomes can have a dramatic impact on people's preference for self-relevant change. We show that in both hypothetical and real settings, when recency beliefs and prior outcomes lead people to pessimism about future outcomes, they make self -relevant changes, as if they were "thwarting fate” by shifting the salient aspect of their identity. However, when circumstances instead lead to optimism about future outcomes, they make self-consistent choices, as if "embracing fate,” by emphasizing the currently salient identity.

Paper: http://home.uchicago.edu/~bartels/ChoiceSymposium2013/09-Urminsky.pdf

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10. STEFANO PUNTONI

Comparative optimism—people's ostensive belief that their chances in life are better than those of others—is a prominent finding in the psychological literature, but a growing body of research questions its prevalence and validity. We investigate socially desirable responding in comparative optimism. We propose that comparative optimism for negative life events is often caused by individuals' motivation to distance themselves from socially undesirable events. Four studies demonstrate that comparative optimism is larger for more socially undesirable events. We provide evidence for the role of impression management by showing that informed consent forms emphasizing anonymity eliminate the effect of social undesirability on comparative optimism (Study 2) and that the effect is larger for individuals with greater impression management tendencies (Study 3). Finally, a meta-analysis (Study 4) assesses the impact of socially desirable responding on effect sizes reported in the literature and re-evaluates known predictors of comparative optimism correlated to social undesirability.

Paper: http://home.uchicago.edu/~bartels/ChoiceSymposium2013/10-Puntoni.pdf

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