Behavior / 22.02.2015

By Anjum Altaf in Economic and Political Weekly My professional life has involved study of the attitude of individuals towards risk and it is this perspective that I employ to reflect on some aspects of the Charlie Hebdo affair. My interest in the subject emerged in graduate school when I found it increasingly difficult to reconcile the idealized behavior described in Western textbooks of economics with actual behavior I had observed in South Asia. My conclusion was that context mattered much more than acknowledged, followed very quickly by the realization that context was not constant. One implication was that attitude towards risk was not a genetic trait – people were not born risk averse or risk preferring – but a behavioral response to specific contexts. I became convinced of this when my thesis adviser mentioned all the radical things he would do once he was awarded tenure. Not only...

Behavior / 19.03.2011

By Anjum Altaf The following is the issue: If a South Asian were introduced to, say, a first-time visitor from Norway with the preamble “He/She is a liberal,” would the Norwegian be able to guess correctly where the South Asian might stand on a number of salient policy issues? I expressed my doubts in an earlier article (The Peculiar Nature of the Pakistani Liberal) that concluded as follows: “On closer examination, the Pakistani liberal turns out to be a breed apart. The easy transfer of ideological labels – “conservative,” “liberal,” “progressive,” “reactionary” – across political and social contexts obscures the nuances and complexities necessary for understanding the juncture at which we have arrived in Pakistan today.” To be useful, a label has to convey an accurate representation of reality and many of the labels we use in South Asia today fail this test.
Behavior / 21.11.2010

I found our discussion on values and behavior (On Religion as an Individual Code of Behavior) particularly useful. Here I wish to summarize my conclusions and illustrate the arguments further with reference to the ongoing changes in attitude towards the institution of marriage. The principal conclusions are the following:
  1. Moral values and related behaviors are not static. They can often change with surprising rapidity.
  2. The possibility of change can be triggered by any number of reasons – wars, famines, technology, etc.