In traditional economics, the rational actor is cast as the decision-maker. Early work in behavioral economics introduced the concept of the quasi-rational actor (whose preferences can be reversed by seemingly irrelevant factors). But more recent work in behavioral economics goes a step further: the enculturated actor is the decision-maker. He or she has endogenous perception, cognition, and preferences. They are shaped by sociocultural factors in durable ways.
In this presentation, Karla Hoff will attempt to broaden economic discourse by importing insights into human behavior from not only psychology but also sociology and anthropology. She will show that perception and cognition, which were until recently thought to be “basic, universal, and natural to human functioning,” vary dramatically among cultural groups (Markus and Kitayama 2010). This more realistic model of human behavior suggests new ways to understand societal rigidity and change. False beliefs and perceptions can be stable when individuals participate in networks that reinforce these as social constructions.
Fortunately, a number of interventions have had demonstrated success in reducing cognitive biases in some cultural environments. Examples of successful efforts to change how people think and reduce cognitive biases have used self-help groups, political reservations for women in local government, sustained expansion of efforts to recruit women into the labor force, and social media. Hoff will highlight early findings of an evaluation of a participatory theater program in India in which plays highlight oppressive local norms. In repetitions of scenes, viewers can step onstage, play the role of a character, and try to persuade audiences that their construction of a solution is possible. The program has increased women’s agency.
Last Updated: Feb 03, 2016