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Institutional Affiliation: Harvard University
NBER Working Papers and Publications
|October 2018||Signaling, Shame, and Silence in Social Learning|
with , : w25169
We examine how a social stigma of seeking information can inhibit learning. Consider a Seeker of uncertain ability who can learn about a task from an Advisor. If higher-ability Seekers need information less, then a Seeker concerned about reputation may refrain from asking to avoid signaling low ability. Separately, low-ability individuals may feel inhibited even if their ability is known and there is nothing to signal, an effect we term shame. Signaling and shame constitute an overall stigma of seeking information. We distinguish between the constituent parts of stigma in a simple model and then perform an experiment with treatments designed to detect both effects. Seekers have three days to retrieve information from paired Advisors in a field setting. The first arm varies whether needin...