Group Identities Make Fragile Tipping Points

116 Pages Posted: 10 May 2022

See all articles by Sönke Ehret

Sönke Ehret

University of Lausanne

Sara Constantino

Northeastern University; Princeton University

Elke Weber

Princeton University

Charles Efferson

Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Lausanne

Sonja Vogt

University of Lausanne

Date Written: 2022

Abstract

Social tipping can accelerate beneficial changes in behaviour in diverse domains from equality and social justice to climate change. Hypothetically, however, group identities might undermine tipping in ways policy makers do not anticipate. To examine this, we implemented an experiment around the 2020 U.S. elections. Participants faced consistent incentives to coordinate their choices. Once participants had established a coordination norm, an intervention created pressure to tip to a new norm. Our control treatment used neutral labels for choices. Our identity treatment used partisan political images. This simple payoff-irrelevant relabelling generated extreme differences. Control groups developed norms slowly before intervention but transitioned to new norms rapidly after intervention. Identity groups developed norms rapidly before intervention but persisted in a state of costly disagreement after intervention. Tipping was powerful but fragile. It supported striking cultural changes when choices and identity were unlinked, but even a trivial link destroyed tipping entirely.

Keywords: social tipping, cultural evolution, behaviour change, coordination

JEL Classification: Z100, Z130, Z180

Suggested Citation

Ehret, Sönke and Constantino, Sara and Weber, Elke and Efferson, Charles and Vogt, Sonja, Group Identities Make Fragile Tipping Points (2022). CESifo Working Paper No. 9737, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4103950 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4103950

Sönke Ehret (Contact Author)

University of Lausanne ( email )

Quartier Chambronne
Lausanne, Vaud CH-1015
Switzerland

Sara Constantino

Northeastern University ( email )

220 B RP
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Princeton University ( email )

Elke Weber

Princeton University ( email )

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

Charles Efferson

Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Lausanne ( email )

Lausanne, CH-1015
Switzerland

Sonja Vogt

University of Lausanne ( email )

Quartier Chambronne
Lausanne, Vaud CH-1015
Switzerland

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
32
Abstract Views
132
PlumX Metrics