The Logic of Relative Frustration. Boudon's Competition Model and Evidence from Online and Laboratory Experiments

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: Booth 69
Oral Presentation
JoŽl BERGER , Sociology, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Andreas DIEKMANN , Sociology, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Stefan WEHRLI , Sociology, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
In their well-known study of social mobility in the army, Stouffer et al. report the paradoxical finding that soldiers in the US Army were more satisfied with promotion opportunities in branches with low upward mobility compared to high-mobility branches. Similar puzzling phenomena have been discussed by classical social scientists such as Tocqueville and Durkheim. Boudon suggests a game theoretic model clarifying the conditions under which the so-called Tocqueville’s Paradox—i.e., the diffusion of relative frustration and, consequently, a drop in aggregate satisfaction under improved social conditions—appears. We conducted online and laboratory experiments to test model predictions, making our study the first empirical test of Boudon’s competition model as far as we are aware. First results from the laboratory show that when opportunities increase aggregate satisfaction remains constant. This contradicts model predictions as well as the common belief that satisfaction increases linearly in relation to opportunities. The online experiments have not yet been conducted at the time of writing this abstract.