IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/jeclit/v39y2001i1p11-33.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Biological Basis of Economic Behavior

Author

Listed:
  • Arthur J. Robson

Abstract

This paper first considers the implications of biological evolution for economic preferences. It analyzes why utility functions evolved, considers evidence that utility is both hedonic and adaptive, and suggests why such adaptation might have evolved. Time preference and attitudes to risk are treated--in particular, whether the former is exponential and the latter are selfish. Arguments for another form of interdependence--a concern with status--are treated. The paper then considers the evolution of rationality. One hypothesis examined is that human intelligence and longevity were forged by hunter-gatherer economies; another is that intelligence was spurred by competitive social interactions.

Suggested Citation

  • Arthur J. Robson, 2001. "The Biological Basis of Economic Behavior," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(1), pages 11-33, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:39:y:2001:i:1:p:11-33
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jel.39.1.11
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jel.39.1.11
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to AEA members and institutional subscribers.
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Daniel Kahneman & Peter P. Wakker & Rakesh Sarin, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-406.
    2. 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.
    3. George J. Mailath, 1998. "Corrigenda [Do People Play Nash Equilibrium? Lessons from Evolutionary Game Theory]," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(4), pages 1941-1941, December.
    4. Fershtman, Chaim & Weiss, Yoram, 1998. "Social rewards, externalities and stable preferences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 53-73, October.
    5. Robert J. Aumann, 1995. "Repeated Games with Incomplete Information," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262011476.
    6. Gary S. Becker & Casey B. Mulligan, 1997. "The Endogenous Determination of Time Preference," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(3), pages 729-758.
    7. Léon Tremblay & Wolfram Schultz, 1999. "Relative reward preference in primate orbitofrontal cortex," Nature, Nature, vol. 398(6729), pages 704-708, April.
    8. Kagel,John H. & Battalio,Raymond C. & Green,Leonard, 2007. "Economic Choice Theory," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521035927, May.
    9. Karni, Edi & Schmeidler, David, 1986. "Self-preservation as a foundation of rational behavior under risk," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 71-81, March.
    10. Robson, Arthur J, 1992. "Status, the Distribution of Wealth, Private and Social Attitudes to Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 837-857, July.
    11. Rogers, Alan R, 1994. "Evolution of Time Preference by Natural Selection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 460-481, June.
    12. Dekel, Eddie & Scotchmer, Suzanne, 1999. "On the Evolution of Attitudes towards Risk in Winner-Take-All Games," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 125-143, July.
    13. Constantinides, George M, 1990. "Habit Formation: A Resolution of the Equity Premium Puzzle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(3), pages 519-543, June.
    14. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1977. "Economics from a Biological Viewpoint," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 1-52, April.
    15. Arthur J. Robson & Hillard S. Kaplan, 2003. "The Evolution of Human Life Expectancy and Intelligence in Hunter-Gatherer Economies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 150-169, March.
    16. 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.
    17. George J. Mailath, 1998. "Do People Play Nash Equilibrium? Lessons from Evolutionary Game Theory," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1347-1374, September.
    18. Bisin, Alberto & Verdier, Thierry, 1998. "On the cultural transmission of preferences for social status," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 75-97, October.
    19. Becker, Gary S, 1976. "Altruism, Egoism, and Genetic Fitness: Economics and Sociobiology," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 817-826, September.
    20. Raymond Battalio & Leonard Green & John Kagel, 1995. "Economic choice theory. an experimental analysis of animal behavior," Framed Field Experiments 00166, The Field Experiments Website.
    21. George Loewenstein & Drazen Prelec, 1992. "Anomalies in Intertemporal Choice: Evidence and an Interpretation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 573-597.
    22. B. Douglas Bernheim & Debraj Ray, 1987. "Economic Growth with Intergenerational Altruism," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(2), pages 227-243.
    23. Milton Friedman & L. J. Savage, 1948. "The Utility Analysis of Choices Involving Risk," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 279-279.
    24. Waldman, Michael, 1994. "Systematic Errors and the Theory of Natural Selection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 482-497, June.
    25. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
    26. Masataka Watanabe, 1999. "Attraction is relative not absolute," Nature, Nature, vol. 398(6729), pages 661-663, April.
    27. Landsburg, Steven E, 1995. "Aristocratic Equilibria," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 434-438, April.
    28. Ken Binmore, 1994. "Game Theory and the Social Contract, Volume 1: Playing Fair," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262023636.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Coelho, Philip R. P. & McClure, James E., 1998. "Social context and the utility of wealth: Addressing the Markowitz challenge," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 305-314, November.
    2. Warneryd, Karl, 2002. "Rent, risk, and replication: Preference adaptation in winner-take-all markets," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 344-364, November.
    3. Smith, Trenton G, 2002. "Obesity and Nature's Thumbprint: How Modern Waistlines Can Inform Economic Theory," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt31g1m028, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
    4. De Fraja, Gianni, 2009. "The origin of utility: Sexual selection and conspicuous consumption," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 51-69, October.
    5. Burnham, Terence C., 2013. "Toward a neo-Darwinian synthesis of neoclassical and behavioral economics," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages 113-127.
    6. Dekel, Eddie & Scotchmer, Suzanne, 1999. "On the Evolution of Attitudes towards Risk in Winner-Take-All Games," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 125-143, July.
    7. Ingela Alger & Jörgen W. Weibull, 2019. "Evolutionary Models of Preference Formation," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 11(1), pages 329-354, August.
    8. Bar-Gill, O. & Fershtman, C., 2000. "The Limit of Public Policy : Endogenous Preferences," Other publications TiSEM 3a30aea8-c6da-4205-8701-d, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    9. Gifford, Adam Jr., 2002. "Emotion and self-control," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 113-130, September.
    10. Alger, Ingela & Lehmann, Laurent & Weibull, Jörgen W., 2018. "Evolution of preferences in group-structured populations: genes, guns, and culture," IAST Working Papers 18-73, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST), revised Oct 2019.
    11. Terence C. Burnham, 2016. "Economics and evolutionary mismatch: humans in novel settings do not maximize," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 195-209, October.
    12. Bar-Gill, O. & Fershtman, C., 2000. "The Limit of Public Policy : Endogenous Preferences," Discussion Paper 2000-71, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    13. Kanazawa, Satoshi, 2005. "Is "discrimination" necessary to explain the sex gap in earnings?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 269-287, April.
    14. Ingela Alger & Jörgen W. Weibull, 2013. "Homo Moralis—Preference Evolution Under Incomplete Information and Assortative Matching," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(6), pages 2269-2302, November.
    15. Mattauch, Linus & Hepburn, Cameron & Stern, Nicholas, 2018. "Pigou pushes preferences: decarbonisation and endogenous values," INET Oxford Working Papers 2018-16, Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford.
    16. Smith, Trenton G. & Tasnadi, Attila, 2007. "A theory of natural addiction," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 316-344, May.
    17. Thomas J. Brennan & Andrew W. Lo & Ruixun Zhang, 2018. "Variety Is the Spice of Life: Irrational Behavior as Adaptation to Stochastic Environments," Quarterly Journal of Finance (QJF), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 8(03), pages 1-39, September.
    18. Antonio E. Bernardo & Ivo Welch, 2001. "On the Evolution of Overconfidence and Entrepreneurs," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(3), pages 301-330, September.
    19. Andrew W. Lo & H. Allen Orr & Ruixun Zhang, 2018. "The growth of relative wealth and the Kelly criterion," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 49-67, April.
    20. 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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Modern Monetary Theory;
    • D00 - Microeconomics - - General - - - General

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:39:y:2001:i:1:p:11-33. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Michael P. Albert (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.