Decision Making in Social Contexts

Similar to our prehistoric forefathers, many other mammal species (e.g. apes) organize group behavior based on hierarchical structures. Being of higher rank often means privileged access to resources such as food and mating partners. It is therefore not surprising that modern humans are still sensitive to cues on social ranking. Yet, for the most part in the economic literature, decisions are seen as choices taken in isolation. This has the advantage that outcomes can be taken in absolute terms. Unfortunately, the existing literature largely overlooks that there can also be a relative component to this as well. The possibility of comparing own outcomes to the outcomes of others might change individual preferences. My dissertation therefore addresses the following questions: Does social comparison influence decision making (paper 1)? If so, what are the domains that are influenced (paper 2)? Is this effect stronger for men than for women (paper 2 and paper 3)? And what are the underlying behavioral patterns that trigger this behavior (paper 4)?


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