The Distribution of Revealed Preferences under Social Pressure

Moti Michaeli
Daniel Spiro

This paper studies theoretically the aggregate distribution of revealed preferences when heterogeneous individuals make the trade o? between being true to their real opinions and conforming to a social norm. We show that in orthodox societies, individuals will tend to either conform fully or ignore the social norm while individuals in liberal societies will tend to compromise between the two extremes. The model sheds light on phenomena such as polarization, alienation and hypocrisy. We also show that societies with orthodox individuals will be liberal on aggregate unless the social norm is upheld by an authority. This suggests that orthodoxy cannot be maintained under pluralism.

May, 2012