The Wiki Man

Hayek was right: you can’t understand society without evolution

He observed that human groups that have developed favourable moral habits are the ones that succeed

7 November 2015

9:00 AM

7 November 2015

9:00 AM

In December the controversial satellite TV channel ReallyTV launches its Christmas season with a flagship reality show called From Homs to Hamburg. A dozen refugees, accompanied by their families, will be given a budget of $500 and two-days’ water in a race to cross the German border using any form of transport. The prize for the winning family is a car and a two-bedroom flat in -Billstedt. The show follows the success of the US reality TV show Monterrey to Monterey,in which Mexican families compete to cross the Rio Grande by hiding in shipping -containers.

Now, before you recoil in disgust, I should just point out that nothing like this programme will be appearing this Christmas, because I made the whole thing up. ReallyTV does not exist.

But what interests me about this thought experiment is that almost every civilised person will regard this programme as repellent. And yet when, for a brief period, the German government announced that they would welcome all refugees who made it to Germany, few noticed that they were effectively creating a version of this competition on a giant scale. Both would cause people to embark on a risky undertaking with potentially fatal costs to those who failed. Yet most people find the TV programme horrible and the government programme admirable.


I wondered whether this showed a scaling problem — whether the moral instincts and intuitions which serve us very well in judging small-scale actions fail when applied to larger groups. Just then, in one of those freakish coincidences, an email arrived from David Sloan Wilson with a transcript of a 1985 talk by Friedrich Hayek.

Hayek: ‘Our basic problem is that we have three levels of moral beliefs. We have, in the first instance, our intuitive moral feelings, which are adapted to the small person-to-person society, where we act toward people that we know. Then we have a society run by moral traditions, which — unlike what modern rationalists believe — are not intellectual discoveries of men who designed them. They are an example of a process that I now prefer to describe by the biological term of group selection.

‘Those groups that quite accidentally developed favourable habits, such as a tradition of private property and the family, succeed but they never understood this.

‘So we owe our present extended order of human co-operation very largely to a moral tradition, of which the -intellectual does not approve because it had never been intellectually designed. It has to compete with a third level of moral beliefs; the morals that intellectuals design in the hope that they can better satisfy man’s instincts than the traditional rules.

‘And we live in a world where the three moral traditions are in constant conflict: the innate ones, the traditional ones, and the intellectually designed ones… You can explain the whole of social conflicts of the last 200 years by the conflict of the three…’.

If this is the kind of thing which interests you, allow me a small plug for evonomics.com — a new website which features views from people on the left and right who are agreed about one thing: that for economic and political thought to make useful progress, it needs to be informed by evolutionary biology. This seems a very necessary exercise, since any attempt to understand morality, politics, economics or business without reference to evolutionary biology is ridiculous. As I explain to my children, ants are Marxist, dogs are Burkean -conservatives and cats are libertarians. And, as I explain to our clients, a flower is a weed with an advertising budget.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Rory Sutherland is vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK.

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Show comments
  • Ideanation

    I just don’t see the moral equivalency between the German government saying that they will welcome all refugees, versus the creation of a reality TV show on the same subject. Yes, both would cause people to embark on a risky undertaking with potentially fatal costs to those who failed. But the same could be said for any effort that seeks to help people in this situation, where doing nothing would be much worse.
    One approach is humanitarian. The other is crass and exploitive. We need the former, and we can definitely do without the latter.

    • rorysutherland

      We tend to judge people by their intentions, rather than by the outcomes those intentions bring about.

      • Ridcully

        The road to Hell…etc.

      • Ridcully

        The road to Hell…etc.

      • Clive

        No we don’t ‘Circumstances Alter Cases’

        If you drive at 100mph you will get a fine and ban
        If you drive at 100mph and kill someone you may get prison even though your intention was the same

        We ought to judge people by their intentions but we cannot know exactly what they were because they are in their head and we are in ours.

        • Mr B J Mann

          But more usually we used to judge people guilty of murder if we judged their intention to be to kill or seriously injure.

          And manslaughter if they didn’t mean harm, or only a little.

          However, nowadays, unless we are sure which was the fatal blow, and we can prove exactly which of half a dozen thugs savagely beating and stabbing an innocent bystander to death landed the fatal blow, we’ll probably let them all off.

          Whereas not so long ago if half a dozen yobs nicked a car and went joyriding round an estate we wouldn’t care which was at the wheel when it killed an innocent bystander:

          They would all have been locked up and the key thrown away regardless of whose, or even if any, fingerprints were on the steering wheel!

    • Malcolm Stevas

      But “humanitarian” toward their own people? I think not – and I know Germany, know many people there, am in touch. It was widely reported last month that Germany could expect up to 1.5 million “refugees” (aka economic migrants) in 2015; that forecast has now been downgraded to “only” maybe 800,000, but a degree of caution has now crept in, with Wolfgang Schauble saying Germany is “reaching the limit of its capacity”. Translated, this is an acknowledgement of the growing resentment of native Germans – wholly understandable – toward the dumping of swarms (© D.Cameron) of aliens into their communities. Living in England, one knows how they feel.

    • T Gould

      Both ask the migrants to undertake a dangerous journey at their own peril for monetary rewards. TV show does about as many as can be filmed, Germany offers up their entire treasury and social housing stock to millions

    • Mr B J Mann

      If you were happy to live in London, had close family in the Midlands and North, had no desire to emigrate, and a plague hit London, or a clean, non destructive very short half-life radiation blast, meaning it had to be quarantined for a couple of years:

      Would you ideally like to be temporarily resettled, pending a return to your home, in the Midlands, North, Wales or Scotland, Eire, France, Germany, Canada, or Australia?!

      If you’re being honest your choices would start with the Midlands and follow the rest in order.

      The best solution for real refugees is to temporarily house them close to home and return them as quickly as possible.

      If any other “solution” is preferred then they are economic migrants not refugees!

      And even if settlement in Germany IS the best option:

      Encouraging people to cross the Med in bathtubs or on pallets lashed on oil-drums, then, if they survive, walk to Germany, dodging border guards and police, is NOT!

      But that is what the virtue signallers are promoting to promote their virtue.

      Which just goes to show they are not just impractical, head in the clouds, ivory tower intellectuals with no common sense and an inability to spot the unintended consequences:

      But truly, monumentally, thick!

      Or so you think the rest of us are, and you are being disingenuous, rather than obtuse, when you pretend the only choices are between, on the one hand, two versions of immigration, both of which cause people to embark on a risky undertaking with potentially fatal costs to those who failed, and on the other hand doing nothing, which you claim, without evidence, would be much worse, despite the fact that these aren’t refugees fleeing from danger, but migrants fleeing TO Germany FROM refugee camps!?!

  • William Cameron

    Whilst I think the initial German offer by Angela Merkel was perhaps unrealistic, I think the proposal was for good, humanitarian reasons – but botched both in execution and after the initial ‘welcome’ given to new arrivals, the cold hard reality of what she had unleashed began to be felt by areas of the country which could not cope with the influx. Such a reality TV show as you describe would have been nakedly exploitative and I don’t think that charge can fairly be leveled against the Germans. By the way, there may not be a television channel called “ReallyTV”, but there is one called “Really” and it broadcasts on satellite, cable and freeview – I’ve never watched it myself, but I do hope your lawyers approved the use of the name of a channel which does in fact exist, in your illustrative article.

    • Mr B J Mann

      The most relevant point to remember, that most people don’t even grasp in the first place, is that Italy could accommodate more than 18 million refugees and STILL have a lower population density than the UK, Germany something like 50 MILLION, and France EIGHTY MILLION ! ! ! ! !

      (Those figures are off the top of my head, anyone is free to check, preferably for just England, rather than the UK!).

      • William Cameron

        The most relevant point to remember is to check the data before making comments like this. Some of what you write is not entirely inaccurate, but the UK with its population density of 256/km2 approx and Germany with its pop dens is currently around 233/km2, add 50mio onto Germany’s pop and that density becomes 369/km2, higher even than Belgium with 337, although not as high as the Netherlands with 393.

        Interestingly your calculation for Italy is reasonably accurate for it to up its current pop dens to a level similar to that of the UK. Obviously England taken alone (do you want to subtract Wales too? 😉 ) would have a much higher pop dens than the UK overall, given that England has about 85 or 87% of the UK pop ,but only about 65-70% of the land area, but if you want to calculate this in detail, please go ahead … I have better things to do.

        However, none of this is about raw population density alone – after all Jersey has a pop dens of 774, Guernsey has 990, Malta has 1,260. Rather it is about the speed of change and the need, were such massive influxes as you postulate to arise over a short period, one would need undertake a massive house-building programme, not to mention schools and hospitals. Germany is still absorbing, with some difficulty in a number of areas, the absorption of the former East Germany, which even today has significantly lower incomes than the rest of the country and many of the incidents there recently have happened in that part of the country.

        I for one certainly don’t propose that the UK take massive numbers even if the current 20k proposal by 2020 could perhaps be upped a bit, but it is certainly right to prioritise those we do take from refugee camps rather than those currently “swarming” into Europe and bypassing countries where they are perfectly safe; some of those who said they wanted to go to Sweden, for example, must surely have realised it is a cold country apart from a few months in the summer and not everyone can be allocated to Stockholm or other large cities, as I’ve read that some have refused to get off the buses transporting them to small towns/villages where accommodation has been found for them.

        • Mr B J Mann

          You jest, surely?!

          “The most relevant point to remember is to check the data before making comments like this. Some of what you write is not entirely inaccurate”

          Wot?

          Like this:

          “(Those figures are off the top of my head, anyone is free to check, preferably for just England, rather than the UK!).”?!

          The most relevant point to remember is to check the post “before making comments like this: Some of what you write is not entirely inaccurate“!!!

          • William Cameron

            As I said, some of what you write is not entirely inaccurate, much of it is though. Do your own checking – don’t expect others to take on board your “simpligesswerk” off the top of your head figures at face value (with apologies to “Peter Simple”, late of the Telegraph). Yawn 😉

          • Mr B J Mann

            Errrmmmmmmmmm:

            1) As I said, is it twice now: some of what I write is not entirely accurate,

            Possibly.

            Again:

            2) Those figures are off the top of my head, anyone is free to check,

            As for:

            3) Do your own checking – don’t expect others to take on board your “simpligesswerk” off the top of your head figures at face value (with apologies to “Peter Simple”, late of the Telegraph). Yawn 😉

            Feel free to point out where I said they were guesstimates?

            I’ve worked them out myself in the past, but the figures presented were off the top of my head to the best of my recollection from memory, rather than figures quoted fresh from a calculation.

            Also, again, feel free to show me where I asked you, or anyone else to, to check my calculations.

            I merely pointed out that I was open to challenges if people wanted to disagree.

            I note that you have been unable, even after, presumably, “doing the math”, to come up with any more substantial challenge than:

            Some of what you write is not entirely inaccurate!”

            Yawn 😉

          • William Cameron

            Yawn, yawn! I was trying to be polite, but that’s pointless, I see. Your remarks about German population and density are complete nonsense, is that clear enough for you? As are the conclusions you draw, from your wildly inaccurate remarks about its population and density of population using the 50 million increase you mentioned. Is that clear enough for you? My original comments stand (which for some unfathomable reason you found worthy of argument – it’s a free country, however, and you’re entitled to your views, however bizarre they are). Please don’t bother me again – I shall ignore any further defensive, chippy contributions from you.

          • Mr B J Mann

            Wow!

            Looks like I owe you a *BIG* apology.

            I was Soooooooooooo *WRONG* when I posted:

            The most relevant point to remember, that most people don’t even grasp in the first place, is that Italy could accommodate more than 18 million refugees and STILL have a lower population density than the UK, Germany something like 50 MILLION, and France EIGHTY MILLION ! ! ! ! !

            (Those figures are off the top of my head, anyone is free to check, preferably for just England, rather than the UK!).

            Actually:

            Italy could take in 19.5 Million, NOT 18 million, without becoming more densely populated than the UK!

            Apologies!

            And Germany could, yes, “only” take in 8.2 Million, not my wildly mis-remembered 50 million!!

            Ever Sooooooooooooo Sorry!!

            And the figure for France is actually 79.3 million, rather than a whole 80 million!!!

            Profuse apologies again!!!

            If you want to check, here are the figures I used (from Wikipedia/my calcs in the last column):

            Country Density Area km2 Population Refugees vs UK/England

            U.K. 256 243,610 6,226,2000

            Germany 233 357,021 81,799,600 8.2/65.7 Million

            Italy 192 301,230 59,715,625 19.5/67.8 Million

            France 111 547,030 63,601,002 79.3/167.4 Million

            England 417 130,279 53,000,000

            Oh, and as you didn’t want to check yourself, I’ve done the calcs myself, and for England, rather than the whole UK:

            The most relevant point to remember, that most people don’t even grasp in the first place, is that Italy could accommodate more than 67 million refugees and STILL have a lower population density than the England, Germany something like 65 MILLION, and France ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY SEVEN MILLION ! ! ! ! !

            Grovelling apologies, I beg your forgiveness!

          • William_Brown

            A most enjoyable dialogue!

          • Clive

            No it wasn’t – we are not at home to Mr Grumbletrousers

            Well, OK it was

          • Mr B J Mann

            And here are some infrastructure figures:

            Motorways:

            Country Length Per Capita Density
            G.B. 3,555 60.41 15.46
            France 11,392 172.74 17.78
            Germany 12,845 159.40 35.98
            Italy 6,661 111.60 21.94

            Total Road:

            Country Length Per Capita Density
            United Kingdom 398,350 6.77 1733
            France 1,000,960 16.27 1816
            Germany 644,480 7.82 1805
            Italy 487,700 8.42 1816

            Railway (Note the reversed units)

            World
            Rank Country Length Area/km Population/km track

            #6 Germany 43,468 8.22 1,881
            #10 France 29,640 21.53 2,201
            #13 Italy 24,179 12.46 2,507
            #17 U.K. 17,732 15.00 3,825

            Notice a pattern there?!

            And last week we ran out of electricity.

            And we’re always having to ration water.

            And we have a massive housing shortage.

            And rationing of health care…….

            So you were saying?!?!

          • Mr B J Mann

            Oh, and From a PEW Research Centre report:

            Non EU Immigrants Not Born In The EU:

            Germany 6.0 Million
            France 5.5 million
            UK 5.2 million
            Italy 3.9 million

          • chatnoir50

            I have checked some data and the latest I’ve been able to
            find reveals the following:

            I’ve started with Europe’s most densely populated country –
            England. England’s population density is 413 people per square kilometre (413 ppl/km2). Then I worked out how many refugees the main European countries could take for them to reach the same population density as Europe’s most densely populated country – England.

            This shows that to reach the same population density as
            England (413 ppl/km2), Germany could take 67 million migrants, France could accommodate a whopping 160 million and Spain and even larger 161 million. And our close neighbours in Scotland have room for over 25 million! That should please Sturgeon.

            In all, just thirteen European countries could accommodate
            more than 680 million migrants before reaching the same population density as England.

            Well. That seems to solve the problem of deciding how
            countries should take their “fair share” of the migrant swarm. So,
            using my calculations, there’s no need for Europe’s most densely populated
            country – England – to take any migrants at all and our friends in these
            thirteen countries can comfortably absorb over 680 million migrants.

            That seems to me to be giving each country the “fair
            share” that Merkel and Hollande demand!

          • Mr B J Mann

            Yup, especially as they’re so keen to help, especially Sturgeon – perhaps England should send her all ours?!

      • Clive

        http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.POP.DNST

        Italy pop den = 209 in 2014
        UK pop den = 267 in 2014

        http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/compendiums/compendium-of-uk-statistics/population-and-migration/index.html

        England has a pop den = 413 in 2014

        We don’t need an immigration policy except as part of a population policy

        • Mr B J Mann

          So you’re saying England needs to ban immigration and cull half its population to get down to a more civilised and sustainable Italian level?

          Or just that it should send all its immigrants and “liberals” to a camp near Culloden for Sturgeon to joyfully embrace in all their diversity!

  • Atlas

    The illegal economic migrant crisis Angela Merkel is responsible for is not about evolution, it is about the very survuval of western civlisation on the European continent.

    • sidor

      Collapse of civilisations is a part of the evolution process. EU is a form of that collapse for the Continental Europe. Hopefully, it will die peacefully. But this is unlikely considering the continental history.

  • sidor

    He observed that human groups that have developed favourable moral habits are the ones that succeed
    Rory Sutherland

    ==========

    Rory, are you sure Hayek really thought about it?

    Let’s take a simple example: the society of the Australian aborigines. Within thousands years of its existence it failed to produce a language that would allow them to count. An aborigine couldn’t explain verbally how many children he had.
    Now tell us, was this remarkable failure of their social evolution related in any way to their “moral habits”? Was it their immorality that stopped them to introduce numerals and counting ability?

    • Mr B J Mann

      Or, alternatively, they had developed such a moral society the need to (ac)count never even arose?!

      If you look back the history of arithmetic and mathematics arose because of the need to establish eg the area of land liable to tax, or interest due for usury.

      But if nobody owns land or uses money……

      • Malcolm Stevas

        If nobody owns land or uses money, they’re probably Australian aboriginals or similar stone-age types.

        • Mr B J Mann

          Yes, and your problem with that is? I thought the Noble Savage was the Western Ideal!?

          • Malcolm Stevas

            Strange ideas you have.

          • Mr B J Mann

            Not my ideas, I’m just throwing a few suggestions into the ring for people to ponder on!

      • sidor

        Sounds like vulgar Marxism: economic system explains the evolution of a society. You need to explain some interesting facts about mathematics: why was it so poor in the Roman Empire? The Western Europe has only learned arithmetics in the 12th century when Fibonacci brought it from the Arabs. Before that multiplication and division were practically impossible. Any problems with land ownership in Rome as compared with Arabs?

        • Mr B J Mann

          Except that the number systems came from India and were translated and disseminated by Christian Scholars living under Arab rule. Now rephrase the problem!
          And I think you’ll find that areas were being calculated by quite ancient civilisations (for tax purposes).
          I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on this, or anything else, but even my general knowledge extends to that. You’re not one of those people who believe that that Mohammed brought maths, science, technology, medicine and philosophy to the West, and not just a religion of peace?!

          • sidor

            You still need to explain the Roman failure to develop mathematics and other sciences: how is it related to the landownership?

          • Mr B J Mann

            What failure to develop mathematics and sciences? Just because they didn’t have a numerical notation that was easy to manipulate didn’t mean that they didn’t have maths and science.

            Never mind every other civilization between them and the Arab Enlightenment you seem to believe actually existed!

            Oh, and on your earlier point, the Romans did have the concept of zero, if not a Roman Numeral For it, and, while difficult, before INDIAN numerals (called Arabic because the ides PASSED THROUGH Arabia, rather than coming FROM the Arabs) multiplication and division were NOT practically impossible!
            But stop throwing up red herrings:
            Why do you (mistakenly) believe that the Arabs developed arithmetic (and probably lots more)?
            And why do you seem think that a society that hasn’t developed maths is inferior?
            Is it OK by you to harvest whales and dolphins?!

          • sidor

            So, why was Rome a scientific desert as compared with the great Greek science? Try to relate it to the land ownership.

            And a practical question: could you please explain us how to perform division using the Roman numerals?

          • Mr B J Mann

            Sigh…..

            Still avoiding the point at issue, I see!

            Or, alternatively, why not tell us what, exactly, it is you are trying to prove?!?!

            Especially about land ownership!!!

          • sidor

            The point was your peculiar statement about the supposed connection between a scientific development in a country and land ownership. We are still waiting for your explanation of the lack of science in Rome.

            Another interesting point is how to divide using the Roman numerals which you said you know.

          • Mr B J Mann

            Oh, and where, exactly, is my “peculiar statement about the supposed connection between a scientific development in a country and land ownership.”

          • Mr B J Mann

            Oh, oh, and I’ve raised numerous points all but one of which you’ve ignored, and that one you seem intent on twisting to whatever you want to say, but never seem to get round to saying!?!?

          • JSC

            Roman numerals are actually quite good at quickly tallying up something, say sheep in a field, but are a pretty poor counting system especially for advanced maths or algebra. They’re better than nothing, but only just.

          • Mr B J Mann

            Because Rome lacked the aqueducts and water supply systems to water their scientific deserts, unlike the Greeks?

            And what did Greek science do for us?

            Roads? Viaducts? Indoor flushing toilets? Sewers? Central Heating? Steam Baths? Concrete? Town Planning? Julian Calendar?

            Oh, and the advanced Abacus as copied by the Chinese and Japanese?!

            Not to mention Latin and the basis of European Law.

            And the Police and Fire Service.

            What the Romans gave to maths and science (and trade and business) was the APPLICATION of maths and science to everyday problems.

            And you don’t, if you’ve got any sense, perform division, multiplication, subtraction, or even addition, using Roman Numerals, you use the Roman Hand Abacus (in base 10, 12, or 60, and which automatically copes with zero, and could fit in the pocket of your toga if it had one):

            You only used the Roman Numerals to record the result, which, Roman Numerals being of the form they were, didn’t need a symbol for zero.

            Do you say we’re in Two Thousand, Zero Hundreds and Fifteen?!

            Or MMXV?!!!

          • sidor

            And what did Greek science do for us?

            =============

            I wonder if you heard about Euclidean geometry in school, or missed it entirely?

          • Mr B J Mann

            I wonder if you’ve heard of Monty Pythonagoras int’cinema, or missed it entirely?

          • sidor

            I have heard about them when staying in Downing.

  • sidor

    Anyway, the meaning of the title eludes comprehension. Evolution of the Universe on any scale, including stars and galaxies is a well-established cosmological fact. What does it have to do with understanding a particular society, and particularly its moral principles? Is, say, promiscuity related to the evolution of Solar activity? Or to the geological evolution of our planet?

    • Clive

      Promiscuity might be, in that if the population of a given area rich in resources was low, it might be a survival trait to be promiscuous – thus increasing the odds of successful births and promoting the survivability of the group/species.

      That characteristic would then be selected for, etc.

      • sidor

        Are you, by any chance, a Darwinist?

      • Goinlike Billio

        Could you explain homosexuality which I have always found baffling.

  • Hayek was undoubtedly right in so far as that cultures, traditions, religions, moral as well as economic systems do not require any top-down design, but are shaped by what the philosopher Daniel Dennett called „free-floating rationales” – just like biological organisms. Therefore the comparison between biological evolution and cultural evolution is an interesting and important one, first formulated by Dawkins in 1976 (of whose theroy of memetics Hayek was quite critical however). Where Hayek went wrong is that biological evolution does NOT act on the group (species) as an entity but on the individual organism or – more accurately on the gene or cluster of genes. The same could be said about cultural evolution which supposedly is meme-based – although this is more contested and controversial. The concept of group selection in biology has been largely discredited for at least 50 years particularly by the work of Ronald Fisher and John Maynard Smith (although it has remained a pet theory for left leaning biologists such as Stephen Jay Gould – and particularly non-biologists – until this day). Since Hayek’s father August was an evolutionary biologist who died in 1928 it is no wonder that he was largely influenced by the theories of the older school.

    • sidor

      We know precisely nothing about the origin of life and the mechanism of biological evolution. Dawkins’ bullshit about the evolution mechanism, as well as that of Hayek and other Darwinist economists, starting from Adam Smith, is thoroughly meaningless verbal stream. Evolution of informational systems is a deepest problem of statistical mechanics and mathematics that must be discussed by scientists, not by public entertainers and political demagogues.

      • Clive

        Unpleasantness aside for the minute, what are you talking about ?

        I mean the ‘statistical mechanics and mathematics’ – did you have some specific discipline in mind ?

        • sidor

          Do you need me to explain what is statistical mechanics?

  • Clive

    I originally misread ‘evolutionary biology’ as ‘evolutionary psychology’ which looked interesting because evolutionary psychology has done work on special adaptations of the human brain for trading, for instance. Here is an example.

    https://dlc.dlib.indiana.edu/dlc/bitstream/handle/10535/5736/behavioral%20foundations%20of%20reciprocity.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

    BEHAVIORAL FOUNDATIONS OF RECIPROCITY:
    EXPERIMENTAL ECONOMICS AND EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY
    Elizabet h Hoffman, Iowa State Universit y
    Kevin McCabe, Universit y of Minnesota
    Vernon Smith, Universit y of Arizona
    Abstract
    Laboratory experiments have generally supported the fundamental theorem that , in classical property rights environments, noncooperative behavior in large group markets yields efficient social outcomes. Experiments, however, regularly fail to support the game theoretic prediction of noncooperative behavior in small group strategic interaction and in public good environments. In these two types of experiments subjects frequently achieve more efficient social outcomes —
    they collect more’ money from the experimenter — than noncooperative game theory predicts . As we interpret it , subject behavior in these experiments exhibits a habit of reciprocity even in single-play games. Evolutionar psychologists hypothesize that this is because humans have evolved mental algorithms for identifying and punishing cheaters who behave non cooperatively in social exchange.

    For about 2-3 million years humans have lived in small interactive groups, and this has required adaptation to the fitness demands of social exchange. The hypothesis follows that the human mind is composed of context-specific mental modules that operate on the cost-benefit characteristics of social exchange. This requires the mind to be adept at detecting cheating on implied or explicit social exchange contracts. This hypothesis is contrary to game and economic theories which formally develop a small number of domain general principles of strategic interaction, which are applicable across all strategically similar contexts.

    Evolutionary psychologists have reported an impressive number of individual decision making experiments designed to test competing hypotheses about human cognition rules in social exchange. We build on this work, and extend it as an organizing principle to examine and explain subject behavior in public good, ultimatum, dictator, and more general extensive form bargaining games.

    • sidor

      Can you explain, in rational terms, what is this verbal diarhhea about? How can cheating in social exchange be related to biological evolution? A form of Lamarckism?

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