The Economic Origins of the Evil Eye Belief
AbstractThe evil eye belief is a widespread superstition according to which envious people can cause harm by a mere glance at coveted objects or their owners. This paper argues that such belief originated and persisted as a useful heuristic under conditions in which destructive envy represents a real threat and envy-avoidance behavior, e ffectively prescribed by the evil eye belief, is a proper response to this threat. Historically, increasing wealth di fferentiation raised the risk of envy-induced destructive behavior leading to the emergence and spread of the evil eye belief. Evidence from small-scale preindustrial societies shows that there is indeed a robust positive association between the incidence of the belief and measures of wealth inequality, controlling for continental fixed eff ects and potential confounding factors such as patterns of spatial and cross-cultural diffusion and various dimensions of early economic development. Furthermore, the evil eye belief is more likely to be present in agro-pastoral societies that tend to sustain higher levels of inequality and where vulnerable material wealth plays a dominant role in the subsistence economy.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by American University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2013-14.
Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
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Web page: http://www.american.edu/cas/economics/
Evil eye belief; Envy; Inequality; Culture; Superstition;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
- D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances
- N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
- O10 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
- Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General
- Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Social and Economic Stratification
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2013-08-23 (All new papers)
- NEP-CBE-2013-08-23 (Cognitive & Behavioural Economics)
- NEP-EVO-2013-08-23 (Evolutionary Economics)
- NEP-HPE-2013-08-23 (History & Philosophy of Economics)
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