nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2022‒02‒28
ten papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. A theory of cultural revivals By Murat Iyigun; Jared Rubin; Avner Seror
  2. The Stability of Self-Control in a Population Representative Study By Cobb-Clark, Deborah A.; Kong, Nancy; Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah
  3. Conforming with Peers in Honesty and Cooperation By Isler, Ozan; Gächter, Simon
  4. Segmented assimilation: a minority's dilemma By Bhowmik, Anuj; Sen, Arijit
  5. The Benefits of Coarse Preferences By Halpern, Joe; Heller, Yuval; Winter, Eyal
  6. How Various “Irrationalities” Proven to be Rational By Li, Bin
  7. Traditional Supernatural Beliefs and Prosocial Behavior By Etienne Le Rossignol; Sara Lowes; Nathan Nunn
  8. Extitutional Theory: Modeling Structured Social Dynamics Beyond Institutions By Primavera de Filippi; Marc Santolini
  9. Anticipated Food Scarcity and Food Preferences By Folwarczny, Michal
  10. Group Identity and Social Preferences by Yan Chen and Sherry X. Li By Marie Claire Villeval

  1. By: Murat Iyigun (University of Colorado [Boulder]); Jared Rubin (Chapman University); Avner Seror (AMSE - Aix-Marseille Sciences Economiques - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - AMU - Aix Marseille Université - ECM - École Centrale de Marseille - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
    Abstract: Why do some societies have political institutions that support productively inefficient outcomes? And why does the political power of elites vested in these outcomes often grow over time, even when they are unable to block more efficient modes of production? We propose an explanation centered on the interplay between political and cultural change. We build a model in which cultural values are transmitted inter-generationally. The cultural composition of society, in turn, determines public-goods provision as well as the future political power of elites from different cultural groups. We characterize the equilibrium of the model and provide sufficient conditions for the emergence of cultural revivals. These are characterized as movements in which both the cultural composition of society as well as the political power of elites who are vested in productively inefficient outcomes grow over time. We reveal the usefulness of our framework by applying it to two case studies: the Jim Crow South and Turkey's Gülen Movement.
    Keywords: Institutions,Cultural beliefs,Cultural transmission,Institutional change
    Date: 2021–06
  2. By: Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. (University of Sydney); Kong, Nancy (University of Sydney); Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
    Abstract: We investigate the stability of self-control at the population level. Analyzing repeated Brief Self-Control Scale scores, we demonstrate that self-control exhibits a high degree of mean-level, rank-order, and individual-level stability over the medium term. Changes in self-control are not associated with major life events, nor are they economically important. The stability of self-control is particularly striking given our study period (2017-2020) spans the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Keywords: self-control, Brief Self-Control Scale, SOEP, stability
    JEL: D91 D01
    Date: 2021–12
  3. By: Isler, Ozan (Queensland University of Technology); Gächter, Simon (University of Nottingham)
    Abstract: Peer observation can influence social norm perceptions as well as behavior in various moral domains, but is the tendency to be influenced by and conform with peers domain-general? In an online experiment (N = 815), we studied peer effects in honesty and cooperation and tested the individual-level links between these two moral domains. Participants completed both honesty and cooperation tasks after observing their peers. Consistent with the literature, separate analysis of the two domains indicated both negative and positive peer influences in honesty and in cooperation, with negative influences tending to be stronger. Behavioral tests linking the two domains at the individual-level revealed that cooperative participants were also more honest—a link that was associated with low Machiavellianism scores. While standard personality trait measures showed no links between the two domains in the tendency to conform, individual-level tests suggested that conformism is a domain-general behavioral trait observed across honesty and cooperation. Based on these findings, we discuss the potential of and difficulties in using peer observation to influence social norm compliance as an avenue for further research and as a tool to promote social welfare.
    Keywords: conformism, peer influence, cooperation, honesty, social norms
    JEL: C91 J16
    Date: 2021–12
  4. By: Bhowmik, Anuj; Sen, Arijit
    Abstract: What factors determine a minority group's extent/pattern of assimilation with the mainstream population in a country? We study this question in a dynamic multi-generation model, and formalize the sociological theory of segmented assimilation propounded by Portes and Zhou (1993). Our key assumptions are: there exists cultural heterogeneity within a minority group, minority members can shift their inherited culture traits to an extent, shifting culture traits closer to the mainstream culture increases economic opportunities, benefits from being close to the dominant local culture generate social interaction effects in minority and mainstream locations, and minority members are motivated by short-term goals. We show that specific features of the socio-economic environment -- regarding the extent of initial culture heterogeneity among the minority, and the influence of local social interaction effects on their payoffs -- lead to segmented assimilation in the long run: In a sequence of generations, some minority members -- those born with culture traits `close enough' to the mainstream culture -- move towards assimilating with the mainstream, while other members dissociate from the mainstream and become more entrenched in the traditional minority sub-culture. Such intertemporal segmentation, that arises in the absence of a minority preference for oppositional identities, can impose significant costs on the entire minority group in the long-run: poverty, inequality, and polarization. There can be hysteresis in the evolution of minority lineages. The efficacy of a policy intervention will depend on how it impacts the minority assimilation trajectory: an ill-timed affirmative-action policy can lower payoffs of all minority members in the long-run.
    Keywords: Assimilation, Minority, Polarization, Segmentation, Welfare
    JEL: I31 J15 Z13
    Date: 2022–01–21
  5. By: Halpern, Joe; Heller, Yuval; Winter, Eyal
    Abstract: We study the strategic advantages of coarsening one’s utility by clustering nearby payoffs together (i.e., classifying them the same way). Our solution concept, coarse-utility equilibrium (CUE) requires that (1) each player maximizes her coarse utility, given the opponent’s strategy, and (2) the classifications form best replies to one another. We characterize CUEs in various games. In particular, we show that there is a qualitative difference between CUEs in which only one of the players clusters payoffs, and those in which all players cluster their payoffs, and that the latter type induce players to treat co-players better than in Nash equilibria in the large class of games with monotone externalities.
    Keywords: Categorization, language, indirect evolutionary approach, monotone externalities, strategic complements, strategic substitutes.
    JEL: C73 D83
    Date: 2022–01–25
  6. By: Li, Bin
    Abstract: Various“irrationalities” have always been deemed distinct from human reason or “rational thinking”. However, another long-standing view is that“irrationalities” are really some kinds of rationality that just need to be somehow proven. It would be most satisfactory if the proof could be done because a successful proof can re-justify the mainstream rational principle, then minimizing the price of reform of economics. This paper briefly introduces a ready-made solution.
    Keywords: irrationality; rationality; behavioral economics; psychology; animal spirits; bounded rationality
    JEL: A10 B00 C60
    Date: 2022–01–06
  7. By: Etienne Le Rossignol; Sara Lowes; Nathan Nunn
    Abstract: In sub-Saharan Africa, traditional supernatural beliefs, including belief in witchcraft, black magic, or fetishism, are widespread. Some have hypothesized that these beliefs help to sustain cooperative behavior in a setting where the state is often absent. Others have documented that, at least at a macro-level, such beliefs are negatively associated with prosocial behavior. We contribute to a better understanding of the causal effects of these traditional supernatural beliefs by using lab-in-the-field experiments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Participants complete a range of experimental tasks where one player chooses whether to act in a prosocial manner towards another player. Participants are randomly assigned to another player that has either a strong or weak belief in witchcraft, and this information is known by the players. We find that participants act less prosocially towards randomly-assigned partners who believe more strongly in witchcraft. We also find that antisocial behavior is more socially acceptable and prosocial behavior less socially acceptable when playing with a partner who believes more strongly in witchcraft. Our findings suggest that the negative relationship between witchcraft and prosocial outcomes observed in the data may, in fact, be due to the causal effect of the presence of traditional supernatural beliefs on people’s behavior.
    JEL: O12 Z1 Z12 Z13
    Date: 2022–01
  8. By: Primavera de Filippi (CERSA - Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches de Sciences Administratives et Politiques - UP2 - Université Panthéon-Assas - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique); Marc Santolini
    Abstract: Interaction among individuals underlies all social processes. Underpinning the emergence of complex social organisations is the ability for individuals to influence one another, either directly, through peer pressure and social reinforcement, or indirectly, through the establishment of larger social structures, such as communities, families, companies, governments, and many other types of institutions. Several theoretical frameworks have been developed in a variety of disciplines to understand how individuals organise themselves into these social structures and how these social structures in turn contribute to shaping individual attitudes, infrastructures, tools, behaviours, ideas and beliefs. The concept of institutions is particularly central to most theoretical frameworks in the field of organisational and governance theory. While some of these frameworks focus on the structural properties of social groups that support or reinforce intended social interactions, others focus on social environments and cultural phenomena as a means to investigate how culture affects social dynamics and individual practices in the context of interactive and relational social structures. Yet, while most of these frameworks do recognize the interplay that subsists between the structural elements and the cultural components of these social groups, they often assimilate both of these components into a monolithic framework of analysis—thereby limiting the opportunity to distinguish between the different logics that animate each of these components. In this paper, we introduce an integrated theoretical framework to analyse the interplay between formalized social structures composed of codified roles and rules which are commonly described as "institutions'', and the more latent interpersonal relationships that shape and animate these institutions—we introduce the notion of "extitutions'' to describe the latter. The main contribution of this paper is to provide an ontological framework to characterize the reciprocal interactions between the extitutional and institutional aspects of social groups, explicitly disentangling their respective influences in order to better comprehend the operations and dynamic evolution of these groups. The paper builds upon neo-structural sociology to elaborate a comprehensive framework of analysis for advancing the formalisation of both institutional and extitutional dynamics and how they affect or influence each other over time from a multi-faceted and multi-layered network standpoint.
    Date: 2022
  9. By: Folwarczny, Michal (Reykjavik University)
    Abstract: In the recent decade, marketing literature has acknowledged the advantages of applying an evolutionary lens to understand consumer behavior in different domains. Food choice context is one such domain, having implications for societal well-being, especially for public health and addressing environmental issues. In this thesis, I investigate how mechanisms that have emerged as adaptations to food scarcity—frequent throughout human history—affect modern consumers’ food preferences, potentially leading to maladaptive outcomes. In Paper I, we highlight that selection pressures adjusted humans to forage in ancestral, hostile environments when they were wandering between periods of food scarcity and food sufficiency. Consequently, consumers often fail to choose foods appropriate to their current needs in contemporary retail contexts. Rather than attempting to override these hardwired and evolutionarily outdated food preferences, we recommend policymakers leverage them in such a way that facilitates healthier food choices. A series of studies reported in Paper II show that exposing people to climate change-induced food scarcity distant in time and space shifts their current food preferences. Specifically, people exposed to such video content exhibit a stronger preference toward energy-dense (vs. low-calorie) foods than their peers exposed to a control video. In Paper III, we aimed to account for potential confounds stemming from the control video used in studies reported in Paper II. Additionally, we strived to conceptually replicate these earlier findings by exposing participants to subtle cues to food scarcity—a winter forest walk. Although not all studies yielded significant results at conventional levels, this empirical package—when taken together—corroborated the earlier findings. Despite that studies described in Papers II–III provided a shred of empirical evidence showing a potency of food scarcity cues in increasing preferences toward energy-dense (vs. low-calorie) products, it was still unclear what drove such a shift in food liking. Thus, in Paper IV, we have developed and psychometrically validated the Anticipated Food Scarcity Scale (AFSS), measuring the degree to which people perceive food resources as becoming less available in the future. Aside from being a candidate mechanism partially explaining findings reported in Papers II–III, anticipated food scarcity (AFS) is also related to some aspects of prosociality. Studies presented in this thesis suggest that when environmental cues to food scarcity are present, people show a stronger preference toward energy-dense (vs. low-calorie) foods than their peers unexposed to such cues. Policymakers should consider these results when designing climate change and other similar campaigns, as such communication often depicts food scarcity. Additional research may explore the possibility that exposure to food scarcity cues affects food choices. Considering that we found AFS correlated with certain prosocial attitudes, it is a new psychological construct that warrants future investigation through multidisciplinary research.
    Date: 2021–12–14
  10. By: Marie Claire Villeval (GATE - Groupe d'analyse et de théorie économique - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - ENS LSH - Ecole Normale Supérieure Lettres et Sciences Humaines - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
    Abstract: Beyond a summary of the paper, this review of "Group Identity and Social Preferences" by Yan Chen and Sherry X. Li highlights its exceptional impact on our understanding of group-contingent social preferences. This paper has made an important theoretical contribution by introducing group identity in the Charness and Rabin (2002)'s model of social preferences. The core of the contribution is to show experimentally that social identity influences distributional preferences, reciprocity and welfare-maximizing behavior. In particular, charity increases and envy decreases when people are matched with an in-group compared to an out-group, and people are more likely to reward and less likely to punish an ingroup than an out-group match. This paper has also contributed to the methodological debates about the use of minimal group identity in laboratory experiments. It has inspired many research programs on the role of group-contingent preferences in various dimensions of decision-making in society. It is also important to emphasize its policy implications regarding how groupcontingent social preferences could be activated to improve efficiency and the quality of social interactions in our segmented societies. This research agenda is more relevant than ever.
    Date: 2021

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.