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How Altruism Can Prevail in an Evolutionary Environment

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  • Bergstrom, Theodore C
  • Stark, Oded

Abstract

Why are economists convinced that {\it homo economicus}\/ is selfish? No doubt we find considerable support for this hypothesis in the behavior of our colleagues. Beyond this, a plausible evolutionary argument for selfishness would assert that if natural selection favors those who receive high payoffs, and if altruists get lower payoffs than selfish individuals, then evolution will tend to eliminate altruists. In this paper, we will show that, paradoxically, evolution can sustain cooperative behavior between relatives or neighbors even in single-shot prisoner's dilemma models, where cooperation benefits one's opponent at a cost to oneself.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 83 (1993)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 149-55

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:83:y:1993:i:2:p:149-55

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References

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  1. Bernheim, B Douglas & Stark, Oded, 1988. "Altruism within the Family Reconsidered: Do Nice Guys Finish Last?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1034-45, December.
  2. Vives, X., 1988. "Nash Equilibrium With Strategic Complementarities," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 107-88, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  3. Bergstrom, Ted, 1989. "Love and Spaghetti, the Opportunity Cost of Virtue," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 165-73, Spring.
  4. Bergstrom, T.C. & Stark, O., 1993. "How Altruism Can Prevail in an Evolutionary Environment," Papers 93-01, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
  5. Binmore, K. & Samuelson, L., 1990. "Evolutionary Stability In Repeated Games Played By Finite Automata," Working papers 90-29, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  6. Jack Hirshleifer, 1977. "Economics from a Biological Viewpoint," UCLA Economics Working Papers 087, UCLA Department of Economics.
  7. Kandori, Michihiro & Mailath, George J & Rob, Rafael, 1993. "Learning, Mutation, and Long Run Equilibria in Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(1), pages 29-56, January.
  8. Robson, Arthur J, 1992. "Status, the Distribution of Wealth, Private and Social Attitudes to Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 837-57, July.
  9. Stark, Oded, 1989. "Altruism and the Quality of Life," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 86-90, May.
  10. Bergstrom, Theodore C, 1995. "On the Evolution of Altruistic Ethical Rules for Siblings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 58-81, March.
  11. Friedman, Daniel, 1991. "Evolutionary Games in Economics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(3), pages 637-66, May.
  12. Hansson, Ingemar & Stuart, Charles, 1990. "Malthusian Selection of Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 529-44, June.
  13. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "Rationalizability, Learning, and Equilibrium in Games with Strategic Complementarities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(6), pages 1255-77, November.
  14. Stark, Oded, 1993. "Nonmarket transfers and altruism," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 1413-1424, October.
  15. Jack Hirshleifer, 1978. "Natural Economy Versus Political Economy," UCLA Economics Working Papers 114, UCLA Department of Economics.
  16. Binmore, Kenneth G. & Samuelson, Larry, 1992. "Evolutionary stability in repeated games played by finite automata," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 278-305, August.
  17. Bergstrom, Theodore C, 1999. " Systems of Benevolent Utility Functions," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 1(1), pages 71-100.
  18. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1977. "Economics from a Biological Viewpoint," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 1-52, April.
  19. Donald Cox & Oded Stark, 1996. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Demonstration Effect," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 329., Boston College Department of Economics.
  20. Jack Hirshleifer, 1978. "Natural Economy Versus Political Economy," UCLA Economics Working Papers 129, UCLA Department of Economics.
  21. Young, H Peyton, 1993. "The Evolution of Conventions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(1), pages 57-84, January.
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