nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2010‒05‒15
six papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Evolution of Theories of Mind By Mohlin, Erik
  2. Reconciling Pro-Social vs. Selfish Behavior - Evidence for the Role of Self-Control By Martinsson, Peter; Myrseth, Kristian Ove R.; Wollbrant, Conny
  3. Social Preferences and Perceived Intentions. An experiment with Normally Developing and Autistic Spectrum Disorders Subjects By V.Pelligra; A.Isoni; R.Fadda; I.Doneddu
  4. Do People Make Strategic Commitments? Experimental Evidence on Strategic Information Avoidance By Anders Poulsen; Michael Roos
  5. Social Comparison and Risky Choices By Jona Linde; Joep Sonnemans
  6. Do religious contexts elicit more trust and altruism? An experiment on Facebook By Bradley J. Ruffle; Richard Sosis

  1. By: Mohlin, Erik (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics)
    Abstract: This paper studies evolution of peoples' models of how other people think -- their theories of mind. For the case of games that are played for the first time, people are assumed to form beliefs according to the level-k model. This model postulates a hierarchy of types, such that an individual of type k plays a k times iterated best response to the uniform distribution. For the case of learning, it is assumed that the lowest type behaves in accordance with fictitious play, and that there is a hierarchy of more sophisticated types, which play iterated best responses to this. The models are also extended to allow for partial observability, in the sense that a higher type recognize and best respond to lower types, but not vice versa. Evolution according to the replicator dynamic is studied both across and within games. It is found that evolution may lead to stable states where different types, including low types, co-exist. This holds even when types are not observed.
    Keywords: Theory of Mind; Evolution; Learning; Level-k; Fictitious Play; Cognitive Hierarchy
    JEL: C73 D83
    Date: 2010–05–04
  2. By: Martinsson, Peter (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University); Myrseth, Kristian Ove R. (ESMT European School of Management and Technology); Wollbrant, Conny (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)
    Abstract: We test the proposition that individuals may experience a self-control conflict between short-term temptation to be selfish and better judgment to act pro-socially. Using a dictator game and a public goods game, we manipulated the likelihood that individuals identified self-control conflict, and we measured their trait ability to implement self-control strategies. Consistent with our hypothesis, we find that trait self-control exhibits a positive and significant correlation with pro-social behavior in the treatment that raises likelihood of conflict identification, but not in the treatment that reduces likelihood of conflict identification.<p>
    Keywords: self-control; pro-social behavior; altruism; experiment.
    JEL: D01 D64 D70
    Date: 2010–05–10
  3. By: V.Pelligra; A.Isoni; R.Fadda; I.Doneddu
    Abstract: Models of social preferences explain departures from pure self-interest as a consequence of either outcome-based or intention-based other-regarding motives. Various experimental studies lend support to the conclusion that subjects behave as if they conditioned their behaviour on the perceived intentions of others. We present a new experiment that explores this as if clause by making the ability to detect intentions a treatment variable. We compare normally developing children with autistic children – typically unable to perceive intentions – and find differences consistent with the hypothesis that behaviour responds to intentions, especially if unkind.
    Keywords: Social Preferences; Theory of Mind; Intentionality; Autism
    JEL: C72 C91
    Date: 2010
  4. By: Anders Poulsen (School of Economics, University of East Anglia); Michael Roos (Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum; School of Economics, University of East Anglia)
    Abstract: Game theory predicts that players make strategic commitments that may appear counter-intuitive. We conducted an experiment to see if people make a counter-intuitive but strategically optimal decision to avoid information. The experiment is based on a sequential Nash demand game in which a responding player can commit ahead of the game not to see what a proposing player demanded. Our data show that subjects do, but only after substantial time, learn to make the optimal strategic commitment. We find only weak evidence of physical timing effects.
    Keywords: Strategic commitment, commitment, bargaining, strategic value of information, physical timing effects, endogenous timing, experiment
    JEL: J3 J6 M5
    Date: 2010–04–23
  5. By: Jona Linde (University of Amsterdam); Joep Sonnemans (University of Amsterdam)
    Abstract: This study attempts to combine two traditional fields in microeconomics: individual decision making under risk and decision making in an interpersonal context. The influence of social comparison on risky choices is explored in an experiment in which participants make a series of choices between lotteries with only positive outcomes. Three kinds of choice situations are employed. In the loss and gain context the social referent receives a fixed payoff that is respectively higher and lower than all possible payoffs of the decision maker. In the neutral context social referent and decision maker will always earn the same amount. In the gain and loss contexts the decision maker has no influence on the earnings of the social referent so strategic behavior or social preferences can play no role. We find that decision makers are more risk-averse in the loss context than in the gain context, with the behavior in the neutral context in between. This result is in opposition to the predictions of prospect theory extrapolated to a social context.
    Keywords: Social comparison; social preferences; decision making under risk; experiment
    JEL: C91 C92 D63
    Date: 2009–11–11
  6. By: Bradley J. Ruffle (Department of Economics, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev); Richard Sosis (Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut)
    Abstract: We design a decision-making scenario experiment on Facebook to measure subjects’ altruism and trust toward attendees of a religious service, a fitness class and a local music performance. Secular and religious subjects alike display significantly more altruism and trust toward the synagogue attendees than participants at the other two venues. By all measures of religiosity, even the most secular subjects behave more prosocially in the religious venue than in the comparable non-religious settings. We also find that secular subjects are just as altruistic toward synagogue and prayer group members as religious subjects are. These findings support recent theories that emphasize the pivotal role of religious context in arousing high levels of prosociality among those who are religious. Finally, our results offer startlingly little evidence for the widely documented religious-secular divide in Israel.
    Keywords: religion, trust, altruism, religious context, religious-secular conflict
    Date: 2010

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