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The value of sociality

Evgeniya Lukinova (Research Scientist, based at Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, Moscow Region, Russian Federation)
Mikhail Myagkov (University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, USA)
Pavel Shishkin (Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Moscow, Russian Federation)


ISSN: 1463-6689

Article publication date: 5 August 2014




This paper aims to study the value of sociality. Recent experimental evidence has brought to light that the assumptions of the Prospect Theory by Kahneman and Tversky do not hold in the proposed substantive domain of “sociality”. In particular, the desire to be a part of the social environment, i.e. the environment where individuals make decisions among their peers, is not contingent on the framing. Evolutionary psychologists suggest that humans are “social animals” for adaptive reasons. However, entering a social relationship is inherently risky. Therefore, it is extremely important to know how much people value “sociality”, when the social outcomes are valued more than material outcomes and what kinds of adaptations people use.


We develop a new theory and propose the general utility function that features “sociality” component. We test the theory in the laboratory experiments carried out in several countries.


Our results suggest that when stakes are low the theory of “sociality” is successful in predicting individual decisions: on average, people do value “sociality” and it surpasses the monetary loss.


The main contribution of this paper is the breakdown of the risk attitudes under low stakes and individual level of decision-making. Another advancement is the ability to formalize the social utility or the theory of “sociality” in an economic model; we use general utility function that we define both on the outcomes and on the process of the decision-making itself and test in laboratory studies.



The authors acknowledge with gratitude the programming and administrative help from Ruslan Yaminov of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and from Ivan Menshikov of the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow; Peter Davis, Director of the Social Statistics group at the University of Auckland, New Zealand; Ananish Chaudhuri from the Economics Department at the University of Auckland; and Geoffrey Brooke and Meg Paichayontvijit, graduate students in Economics at the University of Auckland. Oleg Smirnov provided valuable critical help at several stages of the project. Experiments supported by the National Science Foundation (0618265).


Lukinova, E., Myagkov, M. and Shishkin, P. (2014), "The value of sociality", Foresight, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 309-328.



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