nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2013‒09‒28
three papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. The Inter-generational and Social Transmission of Cultural Traits: Theory and Evidence from Smoking Behavior By Rebekka Christopoulou; Ahmed Jaber; Dean R. Lillard
  2. The Evolution of 'Theory of Mind': Theory and Experiments By Erik O. Kimbrough; Nikolaus Robalino; Arthur J. Robson
  3. Egocentric framing - one way people may fail in a switch dilemma: Evidence from excessive lane switching By Navon, David; Kaplan, Todd; Kasten, Ronen

  1. By: Rebekka Christopoulou; Ahmed Jaber; Dean R. Lillard
    Abstract: The extant literature on cultural transmission takes competing cultures in society as given and parental cultural preferences as fixed. We relax these assumptions by endogenizing both societal and parental preferences. We use smoking as a case-study of a cultural trait which did not always exist, and which over time has switched from being perceived as socially acceptable to being perceived as undesirable. In our model, parents' preferred cultural traits depend on the perceived health costs of smoking, and societal preferences depend on the behavior of a tobacco industry that aims to maximize smoking prevalence. We derive conditions for the emergence and persistence of the smoking habit, and find new implications for the relationship between parental and societal influences. We then test explicitly for the validity of our theoretical framework using novel US data. We find that our framework is able to capture features of smoking behavior which existing models are unable to explain.
    JEL: D1 I1 Z1
    Date: 2013–08
  2. By: Erik O. Kimbrough; Nikolaus Robalino; Arthur J. Robson
    Date: 2013–09–19
  3. By: Navon, David; Kaplan, Todd; Kasten, Ronen
    Abstract: To study switching behavior, an experiment mimicking the state of a driver on the road was conducted. In each trial participants were given a chance to switch lanes. Despite the fact that lane switching had no sound rational basis, participants often switched lanes when the speed of driving in their lane on the previous trial was relatively slow. That tendency was discerned even when switching behavior had been sparsely reinforced, and was especially marked in almost a third of the participants, who manifested it consistently. The findings illustrate a type of behavior occuring in various contexts (e.g., stocks held in a portfolio, conduct pertinent for residual life expectancy, supermarket queues). We argue that this behavior may be due to a fallacy reminiscent of that arising in the well-known “envelopes problem”, in which each of two players holds a sum of money of which she knows nothing about except that it is either half or twice the amount held by the other player. Players may be paradoxically tempted to exchange assets, since an exchange fallaciously appears to always yield an expected value greater than whatever is regarded as the player’s present assets. We argue that the fallacy is due to egocentrically framing the problem as if the “amount I have” is definite, albeit unspecified, and show that framing the paradox acentrically instead eliminates the incentive to exchange assets. A possible psychological source for the human disposition to frame problems in a way that inflates expected gain is discussed. Finally, a heuristic meant to avert the source of the fallacy is proposed.
    Keywords: Decision making; Reasoning; Cognitive fallacies and biases; Switching behavior
    JEL: C9 C91 D03
    Date: 2013–09–18

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