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Are (negative) emotions to blame for being positional? An experimental investigation of the impact of emotional states on status preferences

Jérémy Celse, Fabrice Galia () and Sylvain Max

Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), 2017, vol. 67, issue C, 122-130

Abstract: Would you prefer to have more or more than others? Solnick and Hemenway (1998) found that the majority of participants prefer to incur a loss rather than being below others. Several studies corroborate the existence and importance of positional concerns and suggest, without demonstrating it, that negative emotions such as envy to be responsible for guiding positional preferences. A question remains: Are emotions, and particularly negative emotions, responsible for leading agents to exhibit positional preferences? We examine experimentally the impact of emotions on participants' preferences for status. We run three conditions. Under one condition, we elicit participants' preferences for status by asking them to answer a variant of the Solnick and Hemenway's (1998) questionnaire so as to elicit their status preferences without inducing any emotion. Under the two other conditions, we first induce experimentally emotions (either joy or anger) and secondly, we ask participants to fill the same questionnaire. We find that emotions cause a significant change in participants' preferences. We observe that inducing joy shifts significantly participants' preferences. However, we fail at observing a significant impact of anger on participants' preferences. In particular, we find that the negative emotion of anger is not to blame for being positional.

Keywords: Relative standing; Emotions; Positional concern; Status; Experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D0 D1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:67:y:2017:i:c:p:122-130