Consumer behaviour in a social context: implications for environmental policy

David Tregear Ulph, Partha Dasgupta, Dale Southerton, Alistair Ulph

    Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper

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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.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherUniversity of St Andrews
    Number of pages36
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

    Publication series

    NameSchool of Economics & Finance Discussion Paper
    PublisherUniversity of St Andrews
    ISSN (Print)0962-4031
    ISSN (Electronic)2055-303X


    • Consumer behaviour
    • Social context
    • Competitive consumption
    • Consumption norms
    • Altruism
    • Kantian calculus
    • environmental policy
    • game theory
    • moral behaviour


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