Consumer Behaviour in a Social Context: Implications for Environmental Policy
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In this paper we summarise some of our recent work on consumer behaviour, drawing on recent developments in behavioural economics, in which consumers are embedded in a social context, so their behaviour is shaped by their interactions with other consumers. For the purpose of this paper we also allow consumption to cause environmental damage. Analysing the social context of consumption naturally lends itself to the use of game theoretic tools, and indicates that we seek to develop links between economics and sociology rather than economics and psychology, which has been the more predominant field for work in behavioural economics. We shall be concerned with three sets of issues: conspicuous consumption, consumption norms and altruistic behaviour. Our aim is to show that building links between sociological and economic approaches to the study of consumer behaviour can lead to significant and surprising implications for conventional economic policy prescriptions, especially with respect to environmental policy.