Categorical Distinctions Facilitate Coordination

Posted: 10 Feb 2021

See all articles by Moshe Hoffman

Moshe Hoffman

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Erez Yoeli

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Harvard University - Program for Evolutionary Dynamics

Aygun Dalkiran

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Martin Nowak

Harvard University

Date Written: December 18, 2020

Abstract

When coordination is required, we often attend closely to categorical distinctions while overlooking continuous variation. For instance, the norm against chemical weapons is based on the type of weapon used and is applied irrespective of the number of civilians killed. Building off the game theory literature on Global Games, and using a standard Nash Equilibrium analysis, we show that it is harder to coordinate on the basis of a continuous variable than a discrete variable whenever the variable is observed with idiosyncratic noise. We demonstrate our result using several stylized signal structures, and also present a general theorem specifying which signal structures permit coordination on the basis of one's signal. We also present dynamic models that do not rely on any rationality assumptions. We end by mapping the model to possible applications, including territoriality, human rights, inefficient altruism, institutionalized racism, territorial disputes, revolutions, and collusion.

Keywords: coordination, categorical distinctions, categorization, norms, discrimination, norm enforcement, slippery slopes, human rights

Suggested Citation

Hoffman, Moshe and Yoeli, Erez and Dalkiran, Aygun and Nowak, Martin, Categorical Distinctions Facilitate Coordination (December 18, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3751637

Moshe Hoffman (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Erez Yoeli

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Harvard University - Program for Evolutionary Dynamics ( email )

One Brattle Square, Suite 6
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://erezyoeli.com/

Aygun Dalkiran

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Martin Nowak

Harvard University

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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