Obesity and Nature's Thumbprint: How Modern Waistlines Can Inform Economic Theory
AbstractThe modern prevalence and negative consequences of obesity suggest that many people have a tendency to eat more than is optimal. This paper examines the biological underpinnings of mammalian feeding behavior in an attempt to reconcile the â€œself-control problemâ€ with the normative tradition of neoclassical economics. Medical, genetic, and molecular evidence suggest that overeating is a manifestation of the fundamental mismatch between ancient environmentsâ€”in which preferences for eating evolvedâ€”and modern environments. The phenomenon can be described with a simple optimal foraging model in which both the utility function and the Bayesian prior are generated endogenously in the distant past. The implied disparity between subjective probabilities and actual probabilities has potentially broad implications for welfare economics.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt31g1m028.
Date of creation: 23 Aug 2002
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Obesity; nature's thumbprint; Waistlines; Economic Theory;
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