nep-neu New Economics Papers
on Neuroeconomics
Issue of 2010‒07‒31
two papers chosen by
Daniel Houser
George Mason University

  1. The Evolution of Religion: How Cognitive By-Products, Adaptive Learning Heuristics, Ritual Displays, and Group Competition Generate Deep Commitments to Prosocial Religio By Scott Atran; Joseph Henrich
  2. What is the Age of Reason? By Sumit Agarwal; John C. Driscoll; Xavier Gabaix; David Laibson

  1. By: Scott Atran (IJN - Institut Jean-Nicod - CNRS : UMR8129 - Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris - ENS Paris - Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)); Joseph Henrich (Dept of Economics & Dept of Psychology - University of British Columbia)
    Abstract: Understanding religion requires explaining why supernatural beliefs, devotions, and rituals are both universal and variable across cultures, and why religion is so often associated with both large-scale cooperation and enduring group conflict. Emerging lines of research suggest that these oppositions result from the convergence of three processes. First, the interaction of certain reliably developing cognitive processes, such as our ability to infer the presence of intentional agents, favors—as an evolutionary by-product—the spread of certain kinds of counterintuitive concepts. Second, participation in rituals and devotions involving costly displays exploits various aspects of our evolved psychology to deepen people's commitment to both supernatural agents and religious communities. Third, competition among societies and organizations with different faith-based beliefs and practices has increasingly connected religion with both within-group prosociality and between-group enmity. This connection has strengthened dramatically in recent millennia, as part of the evolution of complex societies, and is important to understanding cooperation and conflict in today's world.
    Keywords: by-product hypothesis, credibility enhancing displays, cultural 40 transmission, cooperation, group competition, high gods,min
    Date: 2010
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:hal:journl:ijn_00505193_v1&r=neu
  2. By: Sumit Agarwal; John C. Driscoll; Xavier Gabaix; David Laibson
    Abstract: Most U.S. households have accumulated significant assets by retirement, but these assets are often accompanied by significant liabilities. Including net home equity, households with a head age 65-74 had a median net worth of $239,400 in 2007, according to the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF). At the same time, the SCF reports that 48 percent had debt secured by a residential property, 26 percent had installment loans, and 37 percent carried credit card balances from month to month. Overall, about two-thirds of these households had at least one form of debt. This brief raises the question of whether older households have the ability to manage their increasingly large and complex balance sheets. The first section of this brief documents the decline in cognitive function that occurs as individuals age. The second section describes new evidence from 10 different financial transactions indicating that middle-age adults make fewer financial mistakes than younger or older adults. The third section explores possible policy responses to help older individuals more effectively manage their finances. The final section concludes that the best way forward is not yet clear, stressing that further research is needed on several key questions.
    Keywords: savings and consumption
    Date: 2010–07
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:crr:issbrf:ib2010-13&r=neu

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