New Economics Papers
on Neuroeconomics
Issue of 2013‒09‒13
two papers chosen by

  1. The Evolution of 'Theory of Mind': Theory and Experiments By Erik O. Kimbrough; Nikolaus Robalino; Arthur J. Robson
  2. Cognitive control and socially desirable behavior: The role of interpersonal impact By Marko Pitesa; Stefan Thau; Madan M. Pillutla

  1. By: Erik O. Kimbrough (Dept. of Economics, Simon Fraser University); Nikolaus Robalino (Dept. of Economics, Simon Fraser University); Arthur J. Robson (Dept. of Economics, Simon Fraser University)
    Abstract: This paper provides an evolutionary foundation for our capacity to attribute preferences to others. This ability is intrinsic to game theory, and is a key component of "Theory of Mind", perhaps the capstone of social cognition. We argue here that this component of theory of mind allows organisms to efficiently modify their behavior in strategic environments with a persistent element of novelty. Such environments are represented here by multistage games of perfect information with randomly chosen outcomes. "Theory of Mind" then yields a sharp, unambiguous advantage over less sophisticated, behavioral approaches to strategic interaction. In related experiments, we show the subscale for social skills in standard tests for autism is a highly significant determinant of the speed of learning in such games.
    Keywords: Evolution, Theory of mind
    JEL: D01 C7
    Date: 2013–09
  2. By: Marko Pitesa (GEM - Grenoble Ecole de Management - Grenoble École de Management (GEM)); Stefan Thau (INSEAD - INSEAD); Madan M. Pillutla (LBS - London Business School - London Business School)
    Abstract: Individuals' willingness to act in socially desirable ways, such as sharing resources with others and abiding by norms of ethical conduct, is a necessary condition of social life. The current research reconciles two seemingly contradicting sets of findings on the role of cognitive control in socially desirable behaviors. One set of findings suggests that people are tempted by self-serving impulses and have to rely on cognitive control overriding such impulses to act in socially desirable ways. Another set of findings suggests people are guided by other-regarding impulses and cognitive control is not necessary to motivate socially desirable behaviors. We provide a theoretical and empirical integration of these findings by identifying a key situational variable--the salience of interpersonal impact--that determines whether the dominant impulse is to behave in a self-serving or a socially desirable manner. We suggest that the dominant impulse is to behave in a socially desirable manner when the interpersonal impact of an action is salient, and that the dominant impulse is to behave in a self-serving manner when the interpersonal impact of an action is not salient. Consistent with this prediction, Studies 1-3 found that impairing participants' cognitive control led to less socially desirable behavior when interpersonal impact was not salient, but more socially desirable behavior when interpersonal impact was salient. Study 4 extended these findings by demonstrating that behaving in a socially desirable manner causes cognitive control impairment when interpersonal impact is not salient. But, when interpersonal impact is salient, behaving in a self-serving manner impairs cognitive control. We discuss the implications of our findings for understanding and managing socially desirable behaviors.
    Keywords: socially desirable behavior; cognitive control; impulses; cheating; resource distributions
    Date: 2013–08–22

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