Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being
Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being is seeking to extend traditional economic models to incorporate the effects of people’s social identity on their actions and on their subjective well-being.
Historically, identity research has been largely theoretical, and well-being largely empirical. The study of social interactions bridges the two, influencing both identity and well-being, and helping to provide a more complete understanding of all three.
In this program research moves analysis from individuals to social groups – from “I” to “we,” so as to paint a more realistic picture of how people make decisions.
Since 2005, the program's sociologists, economists and psychologists have conducted interdisciplinary research developing theories, using surveys, studying communities and performing laboratory investigations. They have taken into account social factors such as civic engagement, connections with family and friends, good health, a stable family life and effective, high quality government – factors that have proven to be together often more important to people’s sense of well-being than income alone.
The fundamental concepts that have long driven economic research are that firms maximize their profits, and that individuals maximize a “utility function,” which is a measure of their happiness or well-being. The broadened view of economics used by the Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being program challenges these concepts. Program members ask: what happens when we expand this “utility function” underlying micro-economics to add identity as a distinct variable, and treat measures of life satisfaction as though they were measures of utility?
CIFAR's Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being program is a diverse, intellectually adventurous group of economists, sociologists, political scientists and psychologists drawn from institutions in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe.