nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2023‒05‒15
nine papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Homophily and Transmission of Behavioral Traits in Social Networks By Palaash Bhargava; Daniel L. Chen; Matthias Sutter; Camille Terrier
  2. Economic Origins of the Sicilian Mafia: A Simulation Feedback Model By Oleg V. Pavlov; Jason M. Sardell
  3. Predicting life outcomes with automatic thinking measures in a marginalized population By Lia Q. Flores; Julian Jamison
  4. Preference Purification in Behavioural Welfare Economics: an Impossibility Result By Guilhem Lecouteux; Ivan Mitrouchev
  5. Guns, pets, and strikes: an experiment on identity and political action By Ginzburg, Boris; Guerra, José-Alberto Guerra
  6. Intrinsic Preferences for Autonomy By Jana Freundt; Holger Herz; Leander Kopp
  7. The Disciplinary Mobility of Core Behavioral Economists By Alexandre Truc
  8. Neuroeconomics Hype or Hope? An Answer By Alexandre Truc
  9. Theory of Mind May Have Spontaneously Emerged in Large Language Models By Kosinski, Michal

  1. By: Palaash Bhargava (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn); Daniel L. Chen (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn); Matthias Sutter (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn); Camille Terrier (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn)
    Abstract: Social networks are a key factor of success in life, but they are also strongly segmented on gender, ethnicity, and other demographic characteristics (Jackson, 2010). We present novel evidence on an understudied source of homophily: behavioral traits. Behavioral traits are important determinants of life outcomes. While recent work has focused on how these traits are influenced by the family environment, or how they can be affected by childhood interventions, little is known about how these traits are related to social networks. Based on unique data collected using incentivized experiments on more than 2, 500 French high-school students, we find high levels of homophily across all ten behavioral traits that we study. Notably, the extent of homophily depends on similarities in demographic characteristics, in particular with respect to gender. Furthermore, the larger the number of behavioral traits that students share, the higher the overall homophily. Using network econometrics, we show that the observed homophily is not only an outcome of endogenous network formation, but is also a result of friends influencing each others’ behavioral traits. Importantly, the transmission of traits is larger when students share demographic characteristics, such as gender, have longer periods of friendship, or are friends with more popular individuals.
    Keywords: Homophily, social networks, behavioral traits, peer effects, experiments
    JEL: D85 C91 D01 D90
    Date: 2023–02
  2. By: Oleg V. Pavlov; Jason M. Sardell
    Abstract: This chapter develops a feedback economic model that explains the rise of the Sicilian mafia in the 19th century. Grounded in economic theory, the model incorporates causal relationships between the mafia activities, predation, law enforcement, and the profitability of local businesses. Using computational experiments with the model, we explore how different factors and feedback effects impact the mafia activity levels. The model explains important historical observations such as the emergence of the mafia in wealthier regions and its absence in the poorer districts despite the greater levels of banditry.
    Date: 2023–04
  3. By: Lia Q. Flores; Julian Jamison
    Abstract: Automatic thinking conditions decisions with intertemporal trade-offs which can matter greatly for life outcomes. Systematically choosing immediate gratification may result in different forms of antisocial behavior and also damage one’s economic circumstances. Based on a dataset of almost 1000 Liberian men over the course of one year, we evaluate the predictive power of three proxies of automatic thinking that have been used in different branches of the behavioral science literature: time preferences, executive function and self-control. We find that time preference is a robust predictor of both antisocial behavior and economic performance. Self-control only reliably predicts antisocial behavior, while executive function predicts neither significantly.
    Date: 2023–03–05
  4. By: Guilhem Lecouteux (Université Côte d'Azur; GREDEG, CNRS, France); Ivan Mitrouchev (IESEG School of Management, iRisk, France)
    Abstract: We propose a precise definition of the notion of 'context' in behavioural economics, and identify four axioms characterising the strategies implemented in standard and behavioural welfare economics to define welfare: (1) normative individualism, (2) behavioural context-independence, (3) normative contextindependence, and (4) consumer sovereignty. We then review the different approaches in behavioural normative economics in the light of those axioms. We highlight that the key distinction between those approaches is the axiom which is chosen as a way to infer normative preferences from behavioural preferences, with either normative context-independence or consumer sovereignty. We argue that preference purification requires the axiom of normative context-independence, whose justification is however limited when individual behaviour is contextdependent. This suggests that it might be impossible to offer a general strategy to infer true/normative preferences from possibly incoherent behavioural preferences.
    Keywords: normative economics, behavioural economics, behavioural welfare economics, behavioural public policy
    JEL: B41 D63 D90 I31
    Date: 2022–09
  5. By: Ginzburg, Boris; Guerra, José-Alberto Guerra
    Abstract: We study the role of collective action in creating shared identity and shaping subsequent social interactions. In a laboratory experiment, we offer subjects to sign an online petition, or ask whether they had participated in recent street protests. Afterwards, subjects interact in games that measure prosocial preferences. We find more altruism, trust, and trustworthiness within a pair of subjects who participated in collective action than in any other pair. Our structural estimation recovers individual prosocial preferences, showing that they increase as a result of joint participation. We then show that participating individuals receive private payoffs in subsequent interactions with fellow participants. Because of this, expecting higher participation by peers makes an individual more likely to participate. This mechanism suggests a reason why citizens participate in political collective action, and helps explain the role of coordination and signalling.
    Keywords: political identity, collective action, petitions, protests, social preferences, laboratory experiment
    JEL: C91 D72 D74
    Date: 2022–04–14
  6. By: Jana Freundt; Holger Herz; Leander Kopp
    Abstract: Personal autonomy has been argued to be fundamental to well-being and is often discussed as an important driver of economic and political behavior. Yet, preferences for autonomy are not well understood, because their identification requires the separation of instrumental value attached to autonomous choice. We propose a novel elicitation method that solves this identification challenge. We establish the existence of intrinsic preferences for choice autonomy and show substantial heterogeneity in a large online sample. We further study their antecedents by relating them to existing personality scales and socioeconomic characteristics. Finally, we test their association with other preferences, attitudes and beliefs.
    Keywords: autonomy, preference measurement, experiment
    JEL: D01 D90 C91
    Date: 2023
  7. By: Alexandre Truc (Université Côte d'Azur, CNRS, GREDEG, France)
    Abstract: Disciplinary mobility occurs when researchers publish outside their disciplines of origin. It is an important mechanism of interdisciplinarity and knowledge transfer. New behavioral economics (BE) was founded by two psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who used disciplinary mobility to influence economics. In this article, we study the disciplinary mobility of seven core behavioral economists to better understand how it has influenced the early development of BE and the interdisciplinary practices of later behavioral economists. Besides the movement of psychologists towards the center of economics, we identify an outward movement of economists away from the discipline. This movement away from economics has allowed some behavioral economists to gain new scientific legitimacy, while escaping some of the normative traditions of economics. This has enabled them to push the frontiers of economics and promote a more radical approach to BE.
    Keywords: Behavioral Economics, Interdisciplinarity, Social Network Analysis
    Date: 2022–08
  8. By: Alexandre Truc (Université Côte d'Azur, CNRS, GREDEG, France)
    Abstract: In June of 2010, a special issue in the Journal of Economic Methodology was introduced with the question "Neuroeconomics: hype or hope?" (Marchionni and Vromen, 2010). More than ten years later, we think it is time to provide an answer. Using a variety of sources ranging from Web of Science to Econlit, we assess the importance of neuroeconomics as a research program in economics. We show that after a very rapid increase in interest in the early 2000s, neuroeconomics decreased in importance after the 2010s especially when compared to the continuing rise of behavioral economics. After exploring a few explanations regarding this decreasing interest, we compare neuroeconomics and behavioral economics to emphasize key points in the ways these two programs at the frontiers of economics were constructed. Most notably, we show that neuroeconomists were more confrontational in their approach of economics, more focused on programmatic writings with few theoretical contributions, and more importantly, more oriented towards neurosciences than economics. Overall, we do find that the first 20 years of neuroeconomics as a research program in itself can be qualified to be more hype than hope.
    Keywords: Interdisciplinarity, Neuroeconomics, Behavioral Economics, Psychology, Neuroscience
    Date: 2022–08
  9. By: Kosinski, Michal (Stanford U)
    Abstract: Theory of mind (ToM), or the ability to impute unobservable mental states to others, is central to human social interactions, communication, empathy, self-consciousness, and morality. We tested several language models using 40 classic false-belief tasks widely used to test ToM in humans. The models published before 2020 showed virtually no ability to solve ToM tasks. Yet, the first version of GPT-3 (“davinci-001†), published in May 2020, solved about 40% of false-belief tasks—performance comparable with 3.5-year-old children. Its second version (“davinci-002†; January 2022) solved 70% of false-belief tasks, performance comparable with six-year-olds. Its most recent version, GPT-3.5 (“davinci-003†; November 2022), solved 90% of false-belief tasks, at the level of seven-year-olds. GPT-4 published in March 2023 solved nearly all the tasks (95%). These findings suggest that ToM-like ability (thus far considered to be uniquely human) may have spontaneously emerged as a byproduct of language models’ improving language skills.
    Date: 2023–03

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