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Achievement Bias in the Evolution of Preferences

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  • Edward Castronova

    (Cal State Fullerton)

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    Abstract

    The paper develops an evolutionary selection model of the cultural transmission of preferences, focusing on the survival probability of certain preference types. The fitness of a preference is defined in terms of the ease with which its carrier can transmit the preference to the young. For example, a taste for work gives its carriers more income than is obtained by those who carry a taste for leisure. If higher income allows a given carrier to transmit her preferences more easily, then those with a taste for work will be more likely to transmit their preferences to the young; hence a taste for work will be more evolutionarily fit than a taste for leisure. In general, cultural transmission of preferences will favor any tastes that facilitate their own transmission, especially tastes for social achievements such as income, power, mass communication, and knowledge. The resulting pattern of tastes can be biased in the following sense: if the young generation were not influenced by achievement effects, they would choose preferences that would make them happier.

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    File URL: http://www.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=giwp
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Berkeley Electronic Press in its series Gruter Institute Working Papers on Law, Economics, and Evolutionary Biology with number 2-1-1010.

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    Handle: RePEc:bep:grleeb:2-1-1010

    Note: oai:bepress:giwp-1010
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    Web page: http://www.bepress.com/giwp/default/

    Related research

    Keywords: preferences; evolution; well-being;

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    1. Orazio P. Attanasio & Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 2000. "Differential Mortality and Wealth Accumulation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(1), pages 1-29.
    2. Bisin, A. & Verdier, T., 1999. "Beyond the Melting Pot: Cultural Transmission, Marriage, and the Evolution of Ethnic and Religious Traits," Papers 1999-10, Laval - Laboratoire Econometrie.
    3. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2000. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," NBER Working Papers 7487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    10. Samuel Bowles, 1998. "Endogenous Preferences: The Cultural Consequences of Markets and Other Economic Institutions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 75-111, March.
    11. Tyler Cowen & Alexander Tabarrok, 2000. "An Economic Theory of Avant-Garde and Popular Art, or High and Low Culture," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 232-253, July.
    12. Frank, Robert H, 1987. "If Homo Economicus Could Choose His Own Utility Function, Would He Want One with a Conscience?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 593-604, September.
    13. Rogers, Alan R, 1994. "Evolution of Time Preference by Natural Selection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 460-81, June.
    14. Gintis, Herbert, 1972. "A Radical Analysis of Welfare Economics and Individual Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 86(4), pages 572-99, November.
    15. Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-50, October.
    16. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817, August.
    17. Schelling, Thomas C, 1984. "Self-Command in Practice, in Policy, and in a Theory of Rational Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 1-11, May.
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