Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The neighbours are watching

From the essay "Against backsliding", in the book "Strategies of commitment and other essays" by Thomas Schelling:

S.L.A. Marsall in Men against Fire (Magnolia, Mass.: Peter Smith, rpt. 1985) discussed the phenomenon that in all armies in World War II most individual soldiers never fired their rifles- no matter how long a battle lasted, how brave they were, or what targets presented themselves- while weapons that required joint action by two or three soldiers, like feeding a belt of ammunition intop a machine gun or loading and aiming an artillery piece, were regularly fired as intended.

P.S. I later came across this- "What economists should learn from sociology"- and this seemed apt

Sociologists have a deep appreciation of imitation and conformity as a basic feature of human behavior. Economists rarely model this explicitly. If it is so important, as sociologists have shown, then economists are really missing the boat.

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