Categorical Cognition: A Psychological Model of Categories and Identification in Decision Making

41 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2003 Last revised: 1 Nov 2010

See all articles by Roland G. Fryer

Roland G. Fryer

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation; University of Chicago

Matthew O. Jackson

Stanford University - Department of Economics; Santa Fe Institute; Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)

Date Written: March 2003

Abstract

There is a wealth of research in psychology demonstrating that agents process information with the aid of categories. In this paper we study this phenomenon in two parts. First, we build a model of how experiences are sorted into categories and how categorization affects decision making. Second, we analyze the personal biases that result from categorization, in economic contexts. We show that discrimination can result from such cognitive processes even when there is no malevolent taste to do so and workers' qualifications are fully observable. The model also provides a framework that is equipped to investigate the social psychological concept of identity, where identity is viewed as self-categorization.

Suggested Citation

Fryer, Roland G. and Jackson, Matthew O., Categorical Cognition: A Psychological Model of Categories and Identification in Decision Making (March 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w9579. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=389450

Roland G. Fryer (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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American Bar Foundation

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University of Chicago ( email )

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Matthew O. Jackson

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.stanford.edu/~jacksonm

Santa Fe Institute

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United States

Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) ( email )

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Toronto, Ontario
Canada

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