nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2022‒01‒10
five papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Selfish learning is more important than fair-minded conditional cooperation in public goods games By Maxwell N. Burton-Chellew; Claire Guerin
  2. Social Organization and the Roots of Supernatural Beliefs By Araújo, Daniel; Carrillo, Bladimir; Sampaio, Breno
  3. Developing Hydrogen Infrastructure and Demand: An Evolutionary Game and the Case of China By Zhao, Tian; Liu, Zhixin; Jamasb, Tooraj
  4. Promises and Partner-Switch By DI BARTOLOMEO, Giovanni,; DUFWENBERG, Martin; PAPA, Stefano
  5. Social closeness can help, harm and be irrelevant in solving pure coordination problems By Simon Gaechter; Chris Starmer; Christian Thoeni; Fabio Tufano; Till O Weber

  1. By: Maxwell N. Burton-Chellew; Claire Guerin
    Abstract: Why does human cooperation often unravel in economic experiments despite a promising start? Previous studies have interpreted the decline as the reaction of disappointed cooperators retaliating in response to lesser cooperators (conditional cooperation). This interpretation has been considered evidence of a uniquely human form of cooperation, motivated by altruistic concerns for fairness and requiring special evolutionary explanations. However, experiments have typically shown individuals information about both their personal payoff and information about the decisions of their groupmates (social information). Showing both confounds explanations based on conditional cooperation with explanations based on individuals learning how to better play the game. Here we experimentally decouple these two forms of information, and thus these two learning processes, in public goods games involving 616 Swiss university participants. We find that payoff information leads to a greater decline, supporting a payoff-based learning hypothesis. In contrast, social information has small or negligible effect, contradicting the conditional cooperation hypothesis. We also find widespread evidence of both confusion and selfish motives, suggesting that human cooperation is maybe not so unique after all.
    Keywords: altruism, behavioral economics, confusion, reciprocity, social preferences
    JEL: D01
    Date: 2021–11
  2. By: Araújo, Daniel (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco); Carrillo, Bladimir (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco); Sampaio, Breno (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco)
    Abstract: Religion and beliefs in the supernatural are present in all societies. Yet, studies about the economic roots of small-scale supernatural belief systems remain quite limited. In this work, we test the anthropological hypothesis that historical dependence on pastoralism favored the adoption of customs that contributed to the reduction in witchcraft beliefs. Pastoral societies were characterized by the use of social strategies as a way of mitigating the risks inherent in pastoral production, making the practice of accusations of witchcraft a barrier to maintaining their existing social ties. Consistent with this hypothesis, we document that people descending from historically more pastoral societies have a lower level of contemporary belief in witches. The results using an instrumental variable based on the ecological determinants of pastoralism corroborates our main analysis. We further show that the main mechanism behind our result seems to be pastoralist groups' freedom of movement and an increase in social ties, proxied by the level of trust in relatives, neighbors, courts, and local councils. We also show that the reduced belief in witches increases references to witchcraft in pastoral societies' oral traditions, narratives, stories, jokes, and proverbs, possibly because the lack of fear makes pastoralists more willing to speak, sing and joke about the supernatural. Finally, we test for the importance of cultural persistence by examining people who live today in locations with low levels of suitability for pastoralism but belong to ethnic groups that have historically lived in areas with high levels of suitability and show that the reduction in belief in witches persists.
    Keywords: culture, pastoralism, persistence, superstition, witchcraft
    JEL: O10 Z10 Z13 Z19
    Date: 2021–12
  3. By: Zhao, Tian (School of Economics and Management, Beihang University); Liu, Zhixin (School of Economics and Management, Beihang University); Jamasb, Tooraj (Department of Economics, Copenhagen Business School)
    Abstract: Diffusion of hydrogen refueling stations (HRS) is key to promotion of hydrogen vehicles. In this paper, we explore the nexus between critical stakeholders in the hydrogen industry from a game perspective. We investigate the proposed policy for promotion of hydrogen vehicles in China. We model the three main actors in hydrogen infrastructure development, i.e. public sectors, private investors, and consumers. The tripartite evolutionary game analyzes the interactive policy process of subsidy provision, infrastructure investment, and fuel consumption. We then examine the evolutionary stable strategy (ESS) of the system. We propose a policy mechanism for how to set values of key parameters to promote active cooperation of the three actors in HRS diffusion. A numerical simulation validates the solution of the game and sensitivity analyses of initial probabilities and key parameters. We find that boosting initial willingness of actors to choose cooperative hydrogen strategies is beneficial to lead the game system to the ideal consequence. We offer some recommendations including establishing regulation standards for the construction of HRS, increasing financial incentives to each actor and decreasing the cost of HRS and retail price of hydrogen.
    Keywords: Hydrogen infrastructure; Evolutionary game; Numerical simulation; China
    JEL: C73 Q42 Q48 R42
    Date: 2021–11–21
  4. By: DI BARTOLOMEO, Giovanni,; DUFWENBERG, Martin; PAPA, Stefano
    Abstract: Building on a partner-switching mechanism, we experimentally test two theories that posit different reasons why promises breed trust and cooperation. The expectation-based explanation (EBE) operates via belief-dependent guilt aversion, while the commitment-based explanation (CBE) suggests that promises offer commitment power via a (belief-independent) preference to keep one’s word. Previous research performed a similar test, which we however argue should be interpreted as concerning informal agreements rather than (unilateral) promises.
    Keywords: Promises, Partner-switching, Expectations, Commitment, Guilt, Informal agreements
    JEL: A13 C91 D01 D64
    Date: 2021–12
  5. By: Simon Gaechter (University of Nottingham, IZA Bonn); Chris Starmer (University of Nottingham); Christian Thoeni (University of Lausanne); Fabio Tufano (University of Nottingham); Till O Weber (Newcastle University)
    Abstract: Experimental research has shown that ordinary people often perform remarkably well in solving coordination games that involve no conflicts of interest. While most experiments in the past studied such coordination games among socially distant anonymous players, here we study behaviour in a set of two player coordination games and compare the outcomes depending on whether the players are socially close or socially distant. We find that social closeness influences prospects for coordination, but whether it helps, harms or has no impact on coordination probabilities, depends on the structure of the game.
    Keywords: Coordination; Lab-in-the-field experiment; Oneness; Salience; Social closeness; Social distance
    Date: 2021–09

This nep-evo issue is ©2022 by Matthew Baker. It is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. It may be freely redistributed in whole or in part for any purpose. If distributed in part, please include this notice.
General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.