nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2020‒07‒27
six papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Intelligence, Errors and Strategic Choices in the Repeated Prisoners' Dilemma By Proto, Eugenio; Rustichini, Aldo; Sofianos, Andis
  2. Upward-Flowing Intergenerational Transfers in Economic Development: The Role of Family Ties and their Cultural Transmission By Varvarigos, Dimitrios
  3. Journal of the History of Economic Thought Preprints – A Win-Win Model of Development: How Indian Economics Redefined Universal Development from and at the Margins By Bach, Maria
  4. The Cash Crop Revolution, Colonialism and Legacies of Spatial Inequality: Evidence from Africa By Philip Roessler; Yannick I. Pengl; Robert Marty; Kyle Sorlie Titlow; Nicolas van de Walle
  5. Cognitive load in economic decisions By Anja Achtziger; Carlos Alós-Ferrer; Alexander Ritschel
  6. Three different tribes: how the relationship between economics and economic history has evolved in the 21st century By Cioni, Martina; Federico, Giovanni; Vasta, Michelangelo

  1. By: Proto, Eugenio; Rustichini, Aldo; Sofianos, Andis
    Abstract: A large literature in behavioral economics has emphasized in the last decades the role of individual differences in social preferences (such as trust and altruism) and in influencing behavior in strategic environments. Here we emphasize the role of attention and working memory, and show that social interactions among heterogeneous groups are likely to be mediated by differences in cognitive skills. Our design uses a Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma, and we compare rates of cooperation in groups of subjects grouped according to their IQ, with those in combined groups. While in combined groups we observe higher cooperation rates and profits than in separated groups (with consistent gains among lower IQ subjects and relatively smaller losses for higher IQ subjects), higher IQ subjects become less lenient when they are matched with lower IQ subjects than when they play separately. We argue that this is an instance of a general phenomenon, which we demonstrate in an evolutionary game theory model, where higher IQ among subjects determines -- through better working memory -- a lower frequency of errors in strategy implementation. In our data, we show that players indeed choose less lenient strategies in environments where subjects have higher error rates. The estimations of errors and strategies from the experimental data are consistent with the hypothesis and the predictions of the model.
    Keywords: Cooperation; Error in Transition; Intelligence; IQ; Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma; Strategy
    Date: 2020–01
  2. By: Varvarigos, Dimitrios
    Abstract: I construct a model where upward-flowing income transfers, from adult children to their old parents, are driven by a culture of strong family ties. This evolves intergenerationally, through a process of cultural transmission. The two-way causal link between economic and cultural change can be a strong enough force to offset cultural substitution, thus generating path-dependent outcomes. These outcomes are consistent with empirical evidence showing that economic development is negatively related with upward-flowing intergenerational transfers, and with the strength of family ties. On the one hand, the economy may follow a convergence path towards a low level of economic development, where adherence to strong family ties is the dominant characteristic of a culturally homogeneous population, and where the overall flow of intergenerational transfers is substantial. On the other hand, the economy may follow a different path of convergence towards a relatively higher level of economic development, where the population is more diverse in terms of their attitudes on family ties, and where the overall flow of intergenerational transfers is lower by comparison.
    Keywords: Economic development; Intergenerational transfers; Family ties; Cultural Transmission
    JEL: D64 O1 O41 Z1
    Date: 2020–06–09
  3. By: Bach, Maria
    Abstract: In this article, I argue that looking at lesser known intellectuals can help history of economics uncover news ways of seeing the world. My focus is the beginnings of “Indian Economics” and its conceptualization of development. The Indian economists, despite their elite status in India, were from an imperial context where they were never considered economists. Studies throughout the 20th century continued to treat them only as nationalists, rarely as contributors to economic knowledge. My research gives agency to these economists. I show how the position of Indian Economics from the margins of discursive space offered a unique perspective that enabled it to discursively innovate at the margins of development discourse. Indian Economics redefined the concept of universality in the existing 19th century idea of development by rejecting the widely accepted comparative advantage model and assertion that progress originated in Europe. Moreover, the economists pushed for universal industrialization, even for imperial territories, arguing that universal progress was beneficial to all.
    Date: 2020–06–17
  4. By: Philip Roessler; Yannick I. Pengl; Robert Marty; Kyle Sorlie Titlow; Nicolas van de Walle
    Abstract: We analyze the long-term effects of colonial cash crop extraction in Africa. Our conceptual framework focuses on the dynamic, interactive effects of geography, trade and colonialism in the context of Africa’s structural change from the slave trades to export agriculture. The adoption of cash crops shifted the loci of economic production to smallholder farmersin areas suitable for cultivation. Concurrently, the cash crop revolution—tied to European industrialization—led to the diffusion of economic imperialism beyond coastal Africa. Imperial extractive economies fueled infrastructural development in highly-suitable zones but dislocated production linkages to Europe and stymied the economic differentiation that otherwise might have occurred. The result was economic agglomeration at the site of production but with limited spillovers to nearby areas. Using agro-climatic suitability scores and historical data on the source location of more than 95 percent of all exports across 38 African states, we find that colonial cash crop production exhibited a large and positive long-run effect on local development in terms of urbanization, road infrastructure, nighttime luminosity and household wealth. These effects rival or surpass other geographic and historical forces frequently linked to subnational development in Africa. Exploring causal mechanisms, we show that path dependence due to colonial infrastructure investments is the more important channel than continued advantages in agricultural productivity. We also find that the positive local effects of colonial cash crop extraction came at the expense of surrounding areas and thereby entrenched deep spatial inequalities.
    JEL: F63 N57 O13 O18 Q17
    Date: 2020
  5. By: Anja Achtziger; Carlos Alós-Ferrer; Alexander Ritschel
    Abstract: Intuitive decision making has a large and often negative impact in economic decisions, but its measurement and quantification remains challenging. Following research from psychology, behavioral economists have often attempted to causally manipulate the balance of intuition and deliberation by relying on experimental manipulations as cognitive load. However, these attempts have resulted in mixed success, with many null results and no clear general pattern. We explain the possible reasons behind these developments and offer avenues for improvement. First, we show that a very simple formal model of decision processes offers a straightforward test to determine whether cognitive load has been successfully induced, hence disentangling failed inductions and true null results. Specifically, cognitive load in economically-relevant tasks must result in shorter response times. Second, we show that the intuitive arguments on the behavioral implications of cognitive load do not hold on closer, formal examination, unless strong assumptions are made that may or may not hold in typical economic experiments. We then report on seven economic experiments (joint N = 628) using different cognitive load manipulations and confirm the implications of the model. While the effect on response times is strong and pervasive, behavioral effects are weak and elusive. Our research serves as a warning on the differences between economic tasks and psychological experiments and the difficulties associated with importing methods uncritically.
    Keywords: Cognitive load, intuition, response times, economics and psychology
    JEL: C90 D03 D87
    Date: 2020–07
  6. By: Cioni, Martina; Federico, Giovanni; Vasta, Michelangelo
    Abstract: Economic history is back in fashion among economists, both in its traditional version, focusing on the economics of the past, and in a new version, dealing with the persistent effect of events in the past upon the present. Economic history is said to be increasingly integrated into economics. We systematically explore this issue with a comprehensive database of 3,286 economic history articles published from 2001 to 2018 in top economic history journals and in thirteen leading economics journals. We argue, however, that this integration is more limited than is widely assumed. The share of economic history articles in economics journals has increased very little, cross-citations are limited and only a small minority of authors publish in both economics and economic history journals. Furthermore, we show that many economists adopt a radically different approach, dealing with the persistent effect of events of the past up to the present rather than looking at the economic life in the past. In the second part of the paper, we measure the citational success of articles by publication outlet (economic history vs. economics journals) and by the nature of the work ("traditional" economic history vs. "persistence studies"). We show that publishing in the top five economics journals, when compared to publishing in economic history journals, substantially increases the number of citations, while the gap between the latter and other economics journals is much smaller. Finally, we speculate about the possible future evolution of the field.
    Keywords: economic history; economics journals
    JEL: N01
    Date: 2019–12

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