Essays on Social Preferences and Social Curiosity

Weiwei Tasch

Advisor: Daniel E Houser, PhD, Department of Economics

Committee Members: Kevin McCabe, Thomas Stratmann

Vernon Smith Hall (formerly Metropolitan Building), #5075
April 15, 2019, 02:00 PM to 04:00 PM


My dissertation consists of three chapters on social preferences and social curiosity. Social preferences have been implicated in many important economic behaviors. Chapter one, “Social Preferences and Social Curiosity,” which builds on Fehr and Schmidt’s 1999 work, investigates connections between social preferences and the demand for information about others’ economic decisions and outcomes, which I denote “social curiosity.” Using data from laboratory experiments with sequential public goods games, guilt and envy are estimated at the individual level, and consequently their impact on social curiosity is examined. I find that those with greater sensitivity to guilt display greater social curiosity. Further, I find that social curiosity is beneficial in that knowing others’ economic decisions and outcomes promotes cooperation and economic efficiency.

Risk governance may be developed as a process that is not limited to structuring practices, but is embedded within practices that are contingent and agent-driven productions. Chapter two “Norm Building in Exceptional Environments,” builds on grounded field research to explore the opportunities, risks, and tensions associated with facilitating a healthy Arctic, as global climate change alters its environment and consequent political-economic processes respond. The Arctic’s natural resources could be conceptualized as public goods by nations not only located within the Arctic Circle but outside as well, including China, India, Japan, Italy, and South Korea. Strategies involving prosocial signaling by contribution (counting on others’ information seeking behavior), and inducing reciprocity (exchanging aid for access to resources) can all be used to “normalize” the Arctic’s future in favor of a particular stakeholder.

Chapter three, “A Literature Review on Social Preference & Social Curiosity,” discusses i) selected literature on social preferences in the context of Fehr and Schmidt’s (1999) inequity aversion model; ii) a growing literature on individual incentives to avoid and acquire information; and iii) the instrumental function of social curiosity. Further, I investigate a series of ideas to fill a gap — the relationship between social preferences and social curiosity. Specifically, I discuss how to enable inference about a person’s social preferences, modulated by disadvantage inequity aversion (envy), and advantageous inequity aversion (guilt), and a person’s cooperative behavior. Consequently, I consider the relationship between social preferences and a person’s social curiosity. I conclude this chapter by discussing the instrumental role of social curiosity in cooperation.