nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2019‒12‒02
seven papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Long-run historical and ecological determinants of economic development mediated by the cultural evolution of effective institutions By Flitton, Adam; Currie, Thomas E.
  2. Resistant roots of institutional diversity across societies: An evolutionary framework By Chen, Victor Zitian; Cantwell, John
  3. Foresight in a Game of Leadership By Perry, Logan; Gavrilets, Sergey
  4. A Theory of Cultural Revivals By Murat Iyigun; Jared Rubin; Seror Avner
  5. The Emergence of Big Gods in the Ancient Mediterranean By Kaše, Vojtěch
  6. On the Function of Beliefs in Strategic Social Interactions. By Arnaud Wolff
  7. Learning to cooperate in the shadow of the law By Roberto Galbiati; Emeric Henry; Nicolas Jacquemet

  1. By: Flitton, Adam; Currie, Thomas E.
    Abstract: A huge number of hypotheses have been put forward to explain the substantial diversity in economic development. There is growing appreciation that cultural evolutionary processes may have played an important role in this emergence of this diversity. Historical factors such as the length of time societies have had experience with centralized political governance, or how long they have employed agricultural subsistence strategies have been presented as explanatory factors that have contributed to present-day economic performance. However, it is not clear whether duration of agriculture and ancestral statehood have exerted a direct effect on modern productivity, or whether they influence economies indirectly by shaping the evolution of norms or formal institutions. Here we use structural equation modelling and a global nation-level dataset to test between hypotheses involving a range of direct and indirect pathways. We show that the historical timing of agriculture predicts the timing of the emergence of statehood, which in turn affects economic development indirectly through its effect on institutions. Ecological factors appear to affect economic performance indirectly through their historical effects on the development of agriculture and by shaping patterns of European colonization. These results support the idea that cultural evolutionary processes have been important in creating effective institutions that enable large-scale cooperation and economic growth in present-day societies.
    Date: 2018–12–21
  2. By: Chen, Victor Zitian; Cantwell, John
    Abstract: Consisting of formal and informal rules, cultural-cognitive schema, and routinized processes, institutions are the foundation of social life. Yet we do not have a systematic understanding of resistant roots of institutional diversity across societies. Following an evolutionary framework, we review the literature and discuss how a series of mutually exclusive and sequential “replicators” have come to jointly predispose human behaviors. Through social transmission, these replicators form lineages, which contribute to different levels of societies. We suggest that our review can provide a new research agenda regarding human behaviors in the social sciences.
    Date: 2019–01–23
  3. By: Perry, Logan; Gavrilets, Sergey
    Abstract: Leadership can be effective in promoting cooperation within a group, but as the saying goes “heavy is the head that wears the crown.” A lot of debate still surrounds exactly what motivates individuals to expend the effort necessary to lead their groupmates. Evolutionary game theoretic models represent individual’s thought processes by strategy update protocols. The most common of these are random mutation, individual learning, selective imitation, and myopic optimization. Recently we introduced a new strategy update protocol - foresight - which takes into account future payoffs, and how groupmates respond to one’s own strategies. Here we apply our approach to a new 2x2 game, where one player, a leader, ensures via inspection and punishment that the other player, a subordinate, produces collective good. We compare the levels of inspection and production predicted by Nash Equilibrium, Quantal Response Equilibrium, level-k cognition, fictitious play, reinforcement learning, selective imitation, and foresight. We show that only foresight and selective imitation are effective at promoting contribution by the subordinate and inspection and punishment by the leader. The role of selective imitation in cultural and social evolution is well appreciated. In line with our prior findings, foresight is a viable alternative route to cooperation.
    Date: 2019–08–07
  4. By: Murat Iyigun (University of Colorado [Boulder]); Jared Rubin (Chapman University); Seror Avner (AMSE - Aix-Marseille Sciences Economiques - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - AMU - Aix Marseille Université - ECM - Ecole Centrale de Marseille - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
    Abstract: Why do some societies fail to adopt more efficient institutions? And why do such failures often coincide with cultural movements that glorify the past? We propose a model highlighting the interplay—or lack thereof—between institutional change and cultural beliefs. The main insight is that institutional change by itself will not lead to a more efficient economy unless culture evolves in tandem. This is because institutional change can be countered by changes in cultural values complementary to a more "traditional" economy. In our model, forward-looking elites, who benefit from a traditional, inefficient economy, may over-provide public goods that are complementary to the production of traditional goods. This encourages individuals to transmit cultural beliefs complementary to the provision of traditional goods. A horse race results between institutions, which evolve towards a more efficient (less traditional) economy, and cultural norms, which are pulled towards "tradition" by the elites. When culture wins the horse race, institutions respond by giving more political power to traditional elites—even if in doing so more efficient institutions are left behind. We call the interaction between these cultural and institutional dynamics a cultural revival.
    Keywords: institutions,cultural beliefs,cultural transmission,institutional change
    Date: 2019–10
  5. By: Kaše, Vojtěch
    Abstract: Macro-historical data from several independent cultural environments reveal that the emergence of morally oriented religious systems, including representations of powerful and morally concerned deities, represents relatively recent development in human evolutionary history. The cultural evolutionary scholarship disagrees regarding what was the main factor responsible for the emergence and spread of these innovations over the past few millennia. Proponents of the Big Gods Hypothesis suggest that this development should be primarily associated with changes in social complexity, since representations of powerful and morally concerned deities represent a factor promoting cooperation among strangers in large-scale societies and thus a cultural selection advantage for groups adopting these innovations. Advocates of the Affluence Hypothesis suggest that the emergence and spread of morally oriented religious systems has to be primarily coupled with economic development, namely with an increase in affluence, which occurred during the so-called “Axial Age” period. According to this proposal, an increase in affluence enabled adoption of "slow" life-history strategies by certain proportion of the population, what led to emergence of new form of religion, emphasizing morality, long-terms goals and practices of self-control. This paper contributes to this debate by focusing on historical setting often referred to in both of these proposals: the ancient Mediterranean. Using quantitative text analysis methods in analyzing a corpus of ancient Greek texts from the period from 800 BC to 400 CE, this study offers a more nuanced view of the process under scrutiny than the one which has been proposed in previous ethnographic and comparative studies. Finding statistically significant differences in the context of usage of the Greek term theos (god) in the texts from the pre-axial and axial period, the obtained results can be more easily interpreted in terms of the Affluence Hypothesis than in terms of the competing account.
    Date: 2018–12–31
  6. By: Arnaud Wolff
    Abstract: We review the way beliefs have traditionally been formalized in game-theoretic settings, and argue that this formalization has its limits, especially in the realm of strategic social interactions. Normative game theory, with its emphasis on equilibrium concepts and its concern about how rational and intelligent players should play, has left little room for a formal characterization of the role of players’ beliefs. Given that beliefs determine play, we argue that a case can be made for a deeper understanding of their nature. We draw on the literature in evolutionary psychology and biology to decipher underlying, not readily apparent, incentives that might influence belief adoption. In fact, we take the view that beliefs are themselves subject to incentives, and that agents’ beliefs may therefore take on a predictable form if we are able to decipher the underlying incentives that they face. This predictable form might then be used to justify specific modelling assumptions, and accordingly improve the models’ predictive power.
    Keywords: Beliefs, Game Theory, Social Incentives, Evolution, Coordination.
    JEL: B40 C70
    Date: 2019
  7. By: Roberto Galbiati (OSC - Observatoire sociologique du changement - Sciences Po - Sciences Po - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique); Emeric Henry (ECON - Département d'économie (Sciences Po) - Sciences Po - Sciences Po - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique); Nicolas Jacquemet (CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - UP1 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
    Abstract: How does the exposure to past institutions affect current cooperation? While a growing literature focuses on behavioral channels, we show how cooperation-enforcing institutions affect rational learning about the group's value. Strong institutions, by inducing members to cooperate , may hinder learning about intrinsic values in the group. We show, using a lab experiment with independent interactions and random rematching, that participants behave in accordance with a learning model, and in particular react differently to actions of past partners whether they were played in an environment with coercive enforcement or not.
    Keywords: Enforcement,social values,cooperation,learning,spillovers,persistence of insti- tutions,repeated games,experiments
    Date: 2019–06–03

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