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Human nature and sociality in economics

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  • Bardsley, Nicholas
  • Sugden, Robert

Abstract

Since homo sapiens is a social animal, one might expect human nature - the set of psychological propensities with which our species is naturally endowed - to equip human beings to live in social groups. In this chapter, we consider the implications of this idea for economics and game theory. We begin by discussing four classic accounts of the forces that hold human societies together - those of Hobbes, Hume, Rousseau, and Smith, who focus respectively on rational self-interest, convention, collective reasoning, and natural fellow-feeling. Turning to the modern literature, we review some of the ways in sociality has been introduced into decision and game theory by means of assumptions about non-self-interested preferences - specifically, assumptions about altruism, warm glow, inequality aversion and reciprocity. We identify some of the limitations of these theories as explanatory devices, and suggest that these limitations derive from a common source: that sociality is being represented within a framework of methodological individualism. We then discuss more radical approaches to explaining social interaction, based on the concepts of expressive rationality and team reasoning. Finally, we pose the fundamental question of whether it is possible to explain social interaction all the way down without going beyond the bounds of methodological individualism.

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This chapter was published in:

  • S. Kolm & Jean Mercier Ythier (ed.), 2006. "Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity," Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1, 00.
    This item is provided by Elsevier in its series Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism with number 1-10.

    Handle: RePEc:eee:givchp:1-10

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/bookseriesdescription.cws_home/BS_HE/description

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    Cited by:
    1. Leonardo Becchetti & Elena Giachin Ricca & Alessandra Pelloni, 2009. "The 60s Turnaround as a Test on the Causal Relationship between Sociability and Happiness," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 209, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Koumakhov, Rouslan, 2009. "Conventions in Herbert Simon's theory of bounded rationality," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 293-306, June.
    3. Leonardo Becchetti & Elena Giachin Ricca & Alessandra Pelloni, 2012. "The Relationship Between Social Leisure and Life Satisfaction: Causality and Policy Implications," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 108(3), pages 453-490, September.
    4. Raul Caruso, 2009. "Relational Good at Work! Crime and Sport Participation in Italy. Evidence from Panel Data Regional Analysis over the Period 1997-2003," NCER Working Paper Series 47, National Centre for Econometric Research.
    5. Raul Caruso, 2009. "Crime and Sport Participation in Itay: Evidence from Panel Data Regional Analysis over the Period 1997-2003.\," Working Papers 0904, International Association of Sports Economists & North American Association of Sports Economists.
    6. Robert Sugden, 2005. "Coping with Preference Anomalies in Cost–Benefit Analysis: A Market-Simulation Approach," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 32(1), pages 129-160, 09.
    7. Marco Stimolo, 2012. "Individual autonomy in evolutionary game theory: defending Sugden against Ross’s accusation of eliminativism," International Review of Economics, Springer, vol. 59(1), pages 67-80, March.
    8. Caruso, Raul, 2011. "Crime and sport participation: Evidence from Italian regions over the period 1997–2003," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(5), pages 455-463.

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