nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2023‒09‒18
eight papers chosen by
Matthew Baker, City University of New York

  1. Reconstructing a slave society: Building the DWI panel, 1760-1914 By Galli, Stefania; Klas, Rönnbäck; Dimitrios, Theodoridis
  2. From Statistical Physics to Social Sciences: The Pitfalls of Multi-disciplinarity By Jean-Philippe Bouchaud
  3. Conditional Persistence? Historical Disease Exposure and Government Response to COVID-19 By Lindskog, Annika; Olsson, Ola
  4. Collective Sanction Enforcement: New Experimental Evidence from Two Societies By Kenju Kamei; Smriti Sharma; Matthew J. Walker
  5. Does democracy make taller men? Cross-country European evidence By Batinti, Alberto; Costa-Font, Joan
  6. Ancestral diversity and performance: Evidence from football data By Silvia Peracchi; Skerdilajda Zanaj; Michel Beine
  7. Violent Conflict and Parochial Trust: Lab-in-the-Field and Survey Evidence By Werner, Katharina; Skali, Ahmed
  8. Can working memory be explained by predictive coding? By Feng, Mengli

  1. By: Galli, Stefania (Unit for Economic History, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University); Klas, Rönnbäck (Unit for Economic History, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University); Dimitrios, Theodoridis (Unit for Economic History, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)
    Abstract: In this article, we discuss the sources employed and the methodological choices that entailed assembling a novel, individual-level, large panel dataset containing an incredible wealth of data for a full population in the Caribbeans over the long run, the DWI panel. The panel contains over 1.35 million observations spanning 154 years, well over 100 variables, and its records are linked across sources along demographic and geographic lines throughout the entire period. This richness is all the more valuable in light of the limited source’s availability characteristics of the area and is hoped to lead to a renewed debate over our understanding of former slave societies, while fostering collaborations with scholars relying on similar datasets for other areas of the world.
    Keywords: Big data; micro data; panel construction; record linking; colonialism; slavery
    JEL: D31 F54 J47 N01 N36
    Date: 2023–07–01
  2. By: Jean-Philippe Bouchaud
    Abstract: This is the English version of my inaugural lecture at Coll\`ege de France in 2021, available at I reflect on the difficulty of multi-disciplinary research, which often hinges of unexpected epistemological and methodological differences, for example about the scientific status of models. What is the purpose of a model? What are we ultimately trying to establish: rigorous theorems or ad-hoc calculation recipes; absolute truth, or heuristic representations of the world? I argue that the main contribution of statistical physics to social and economic sciences is to make us realise that unexpected behaviour can emerge at the aggregate level, that isolated individuals would never experience. Crises, panics, opinion reversals, the spread of rumours or beliefs, fashion effects and the zeitgeist, but also the existence of money, lasting institutions, social norms and stable societies, must be understood in terms of collective belief and/or trust, self-sustained by interactions, or on the contrary, the rapid collapse of this belief or trust. The Appendix contains my opening remarks to the workshop ``More is Different'', as a tribute to Phil Anderson.
    Date: 2023–08
  3. By: Lindskog, Annika (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University); Olsson, Ola (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)
    Abstract: In this paper, we investigate differences in government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on the theory of the Behavioral Immune System and the Para-site Stress Theory, we hypothesize that a higher historical disease exposure leads to a stricter government response to the pandemic, in particular during the first year which was characterized by fundamental uncertainty. Our empirical analysis, using weekly panel data for almost every country in the world, show that a higher historical disease exposure is indeed related to a stronger response to disease dynamics, at least in the first year of the pandemic. The pattern is the same for state-level containment policies within the United States. Our results suggest that the persistence of historical legacies may not be deterministic, but rather time-varying and conditional on circumstances. Cultural norms may matter more in times of crisis and fundamental uncertainty.
    Keywords: COVID-19; cultural persistence; pathogen prevalence; containment policy; behavioral immune system
    JEL: H12 I18 Z18
    Date: 2023–08
  4. By: Kenju Kamei (Faculty of Economics, Keio University); Smriti Sharma (Business School, Newcastle University); Matthew J. Walker (Business School, Newcastle University)
    Abstract: Sanction enforcement offers the potential to mitigate free riding on punishment among multiple third parties. Cross-societal differences in the effectiveness of sanction enforcement may be explained by factors rooted in cultural evolution. This paper provides the first experiment to study third-party enforcement of punishment norms with and without opportunities for higher-order punishment by selecting two different societies in terms of the degree of ancestral kinship ties: India and the United Kingdom. In both societies, third parties strongly inflict punishment when they encounter a norm violation, and a third party's failure to punish the norm violator invites higher-order punishment from their fellow third parties. These behavioral patterns are consistent with a model of social preferences and literature from anthropology and theoretical biology. On the other hand, two clear cross-societal variation emerges. First, third-party enforcement is stronger in the UK than in India. Parallel to this behavioral pattern, a supplementary survey also validates the conjecture that people in a society with looser ancestral kinship ties (the UK) are relatively more willing to engage in pro-social punishment. Second, intriguingly, the group size effect varies across the two societies: whereas third parties free ride on others' punitive acts in the UK, they punish more when in the presence of other third parties in India.
    Keywords: Experiment, Cross-societal variation, Public Goods, Third-party punishment, Higher-order
    JEL: C92 H41 D01 D91
    Date: 2023–08–21
  5. By: Batinti, Alberto; Costa-Font, Joan
    Abstract: We study whether a democracy improves a measure of individual wellbeing: human heights. Drawing on individual-level datasets, we test the democracy and height hypothesis using a battery of eight different measures of democracy and we account for several potential confounders, regional and cohort fixed effects. We document that democracy – or its quality during early childhood – shows a strong and positive conditional correlation with male, but not female, adult stature. Our preferred estimates suggest that being born in a democracy increases average male stature from a minimum of 1.33 to a maximum of 2.4 cm. We also show a positive association when democracy increases from childhood to adolescence, and when we adopt measures of existing democratic capital before birth, and at the end of height plasticity in early adulthood. We also document that democracy is associated with a reduction in inequality of heights distribution. Our estimates are driven by period-specific heterogeneity, namely, early democratizations are associated with taller people more than later ones. Results are robust to the inclusion of countries exposed to communism.
    Keywords: democracy; wellbeing; human heights; waves of democratisation; communism; Europe; survey data
    JEL: I18 P20
    Date: 2022–04–01
  6. By: Silvia Peracchi (Université du Luxembourg); Skerdilajda Zanaj (Université du Luxembourg); Michel Beine (Université du Luxembourg)
    Abstract: The theoretical impact of diversity is ambiguous because it leads to costs and benefits at the collective level. In this presentation, we empirically assess the connection between ancestral diversity and the performance of sport teams. Focusing on football (soccer), we built a novel dataset of national teams of European countries having participated in the European and the World Championships since 1970. Ancestral diversity of national teams is based on augmenting the diversity index with genetic distance information on every player's origins in the team. Origins for each player are recovered using a matching algorithm based on family names. Performance is measured at the match level. Identification of the causal link relies on an instrumental-variable strategy based on past immigration at the country level about one generation before. Our findings indicate a positive causal link between ancestral diversity and teams' performance. We find that a one-standard increase in diversity can lead to ranking changes of two to three positions after each stage of a championship.
    Date: 2023–08–11
  7. By: Werner, Katharina; Skali, Ahmed
    Abstract: How does conflict exposure affect trust? We hypothesize that direct (first-hand) experience with conflict induces parochialism: trust towards out-groups worsens, but trust towards in-groups, owing to positive experiences of kin solidarity, may improve. Indirect exposure to conflict through third-party accounts, on the other hand, reduces trust toward everyone. We find consistent support for our hypotheses in a lab-in-the-field experiment in Maluku, Indonesia, which witnessed a salient Christian-Muslim conflict during 1999-2002, as well as in three cross-country datasets exploiting temporal and spatial variation in exposure to violence. Our results help resolve a seeming contradiction in the literature and inform policies on resolving conflicts.
    Keywords: trust, conflict, direct exposure, indirect exposure, religion, discrimination
    JEL: C93 D74 Z12 Z13
    Date: 2023
  8. By: Feng, Mengli
    Abstract: Predictive coding (PC) is a theory in cognitive/computational neuroscience which explains cortical functions with a hierarchical process of minimising prediction errors. It provides a neuronal scheme for implementing Bayesian inference in the brain to recover the hidden state of the world from sensory input (passive inference) and to select actions to reach the goals the agent has (active inference). Since its discovery, predictive coding has been found to be a unifying theory explaining more and more cognitive functions, including perception, attention, and action planning. In this literature thesis, I review and discuss how PC can be used also as a powerful tool to understand working memory (WM), an essential function for executive control. % Giving a brief introduction to working memory and current PC frameworks, I start with an overview of how WM might fit within predictive coding frameworks. Specifically, I try to explore how PC frameworks help with explaining the following questions: 1. how is WM maintained and updated? 2. What is the relationship between attention and WM and how do they interact? 3. why does WM have limited capacity? and 4. why is WM hierarchical? By treating WM coding as part of the state inference process, we can explain WM maintenance as the stage where the state variables remain the same when there is no new evidence. WM updates, on the other hand, correspond to belief updating when new evidence arises. Since there is a trade-off between prediction complexity and accuracy during state inference, the limited capacity of WM may be an emergent property to ensure a certain level of accuracy. In a process of active inference, attention helps the agent to select actions that reduce uncertainties about the world where selected actions give rise to observations that are used to update WM. This delineates the roles of WM and attention and clarifies the mechanism of their interactions. Finally, hierarchical PC can account for the hierarchical representation of working memory in the brain where each level of WM corresponds to each level of inferred states. Based on the reviewed literature, I summarised three important ingredients for modelling WM which are temporal depth, goals and hierarchy. Future work on modelling would be to clarify whether WM is a separable component in PC, which variable WM is actually represented in PC and where in the hierarchy WM is generated and maintained. In summary, through the lens of variational Bayesian inference, WM can be assessed in the process of evidence accumulation simulated in a deep hierarchical predictive coding model. With action selection incorporated, this naturally explains WM as an emergent property of goal-directed behaviour, manifested by hierarchical inference of the brain through the minimization of expected free energy. Modelling WM in PC frameworks provides alternative explanations to some long-standing questions about WM and may help with resolving the conflicts between WM theories, for example, the ones that propose either persistent or sparse neuronal activity during WM. It may also help with developing computational tools to improve treatments for brain disorders such as schizophrenia and facilitate artificial intelligence in coping with a world full of uncertainties.
    Date: 2023–08–06

This nep-evo issue is ©2023 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.
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