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Article

Social status and social learning

Zakharov A., Bondarenko O.

We studied the effect of social status on social learning and other personal characteristics in an experimental game where individuals in a dyad made repeated attempts to guess the underlying state of the world. Several sets of survey questions were deployed to control for socioeconomic status, the subjective perception of social status, and leadership traits, as well as quality and quantity of social interactions, and cognitive reflection. Risk aversion was measured using an incentivized task. We also induced social status in each pair of subjects using a dictator game. We found that people with high subjective social status relied less on observed choices of other subjects and put more weight on private information. Subjects who were less risk-averse and showed more leadership traits, were also less likely to learn from the actions of others. Some effects were gender-specific. Our finding that social learning is stronger in low-status individuals can imply higher likelihood of information cascades in hierarchical networks.