nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2016‒02‒04
four papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Different Behavioral Explanations of the Neolithic Transition from Foraging to Agriculture: A Review By Tisdell, Clem; Svizzero, Serge
  2. Striving for balance in economics : towards a theory of the social determination of behavior By Hoff,Karla; Stiglitz,Joseph E.
  3. Predicting Human Cooperation By John J. Nay; Yevgeniy Vorobeychik
  4. Can a single theory explain coordination? An experiment on alternative modes of reasoning and the conditions under which they are used By Marco Faillo; Alessandra Smerilli; Robert Sugden

  1. By: Tisdell, Clem; Svizzero, Serge
    Abstract: This article examines how well two parallel behavioral approaches, one in economics and the other in anthropology, explain the economic evolution of Neolithic societies, particularly their transit from foraging to agriculture. Both assume rational optimizing behavior. It is argued that satisficing theories provide a superior explanation of transition (and non-transition) by some hunter-gatherers. Furthermore, many of the concepts associated with neoclassical economics are shown to be inadequate for analyzing the choice problems involved. Moreover, it is argued that all behavioral theories considering the relationship between human behavior and economic evolution need to pay attention to the way that decision-making is embedded in social structures. It is unlikely that a single theory will be able to explain the economic evolution of all societies when social structures and other relevant variables differ between communities.
    Keywords: Economic evolution, economic optimization, human behavioral ecology, hunter-gatherers, Neolithic Revolution, satisficing behavior, social embedding., Community/Rural/Urban Development, Crop Production/Industries, Institutional and Behavioral Economics, D01, O10, P00, Q10,
    Date: 2016–01–19
  2. By: Hoff,Karla; Stiglitz,Joseph E.
    Abstract: This paper is an attempt to broaden economic discourse by importing insights into human behavior not just from psychology, but also from sociology and anthropology. Whereas the concept of the decision-maker in standard economics is the rational actor and, in early work in behavioral economics, the quasi-rational actor influenced by the context of the moment of decision-making, in some recent work in behavioral economics the decision-maker could be called the enculturated actor. This actor's preferences, perception, and cognition are subject to two deep social influences: (a) the social contexts to which he has become exposed and, especially, accustomed; and (b) the cultural mental models?including categories, identities, narratives, and worldviews?that he uses to process information. The paper traces how these factors shape individual behavior through the endogenous determination of preferences and the lenses through which individuals see the world?their perception and interpretation of situations. The paper offers a tentative taxonomy of the social determinants of behavior and describes the results of controlled and natural experiments that only a broader view of these determinants can plausibly explain. The perspective suggests more realistic models of human behavior for explaining outcomes and designing policies.
    Keywords: Cultural Policy,Economic Theory&Research,Psychology,Educational Sciences,Environmental Economics&Policies
    Date: 2016–01–21
  3. By: John J. Nay; Yevgeniy Vorobeychik
    Abstract: The Prisoner's Dilemma has been a subject of extensive research due to its importance in understanding the ever-present tension between individual self-interest and social benefit. A strictly dominant strategy in a Prisoner's Dilemma (defection), when played by both players, is mutually harmful. Repetition of the Prisoner's Dilemma can give rise to cooperation as an equilibrium, but defection is as well, and this ambiguity is difficult to resolve. The numerous behavioral experiments investigating the Prisoner's Dilemma highlight that players often cooperate, but the level of cooperation varies significantly with the specifics of the experimental predicament. We present the first computational model of human behavior in repeated Prisoner's Dilemma games that unifies the diversity of experimental observations in a systematic and quantitatively reliable manner. Our model relies on data we integrated from many experiments, comprising 168,386 individual decisions. The computational model is composed of two pieces: the first predicts the first-period action using solely the structural game parameters, while the second predicts dynamic actions using both game parameters and history of play. Our model is extremely successful not merely at fitting the data, but in predicting behavior at multiple scales in experimental designs not used for calibration, using only information about the game structure. We demonstrate the power of our approach through a simulation analysis revealing how to best promote human cooperation.
    Date: 2016–01
  4. By: Marco Faillo (University of Trento); Alessandra Smerilli (PFSE-Auxilium); Robert Sugden (University of East Anglia)
    Abstract: We investigate experimentally the conditions under which bounded best response and collective optimality reasoning are used in coordination games. Using level-k and team reasoning theories as exemplars, we study games with three pure-strategy equilibria, two of which are mutually isomorphic. The third is always team-optimal, but whether it is predicted by level-k theory differs across games. We find that collective optimality reasoning is facilitated if the collectively optimal equilibrium gives more equal payoffs than the others, and is inhibited if that equlibrium is Pareto-dominated by the others, considered separately. We suggest that coordination cannot be explained by a single theory.
    Keywords: team reasoning, level-k theory, coordination games
    JEL: C7 C9
    Date: 2016–01–18

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