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Evolution and Human Nature

  • Arthur J. Robson

This paper considers how biological evolution shaped the elements of a simple but complete model of economic decision making. These elements are preferences, beliefs and rationality. Whereas Nature might impose preferences over consumption on the individual, Nature might optimally allow beliefs to be influenced by local knowledge and final choice to be flexible. This reinforces the usual approach. On the one hand, evolution also suggests that some extensions of this model are implausible; on the other, it suggests unexpected directions of generalization. In any case, evolution provides a basis for an overarching economic theory and maintains restrictions on this theory.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/0895330027274
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 16 (2002)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 89-106

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:16:y:2002:i:2:p:89-106
Note: DOI: 10.1257/0895330027274
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  1. Ehrlich, Isaac & Chuma, Hiroyuki, 1990. "A Model of the Demand for Longevity and the Value of Life Extension," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(4), pages 761-82, August.
  2. Waldman, Michael, 1994. "Systematic Errors and the Theory of Natural Selection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 482-97, June.
  3. George-Marios Angeletos, 2001. "The Hyberbolic Consumption Model: Calibration, Simulation, and Empirical Evaluation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 47-68, Summer.
  4. Loewenstein, George & Thaler, Richard H, 1989. "Intertemporal Choice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 181-93, Fall.
  5. Robson, Arthur J., 1996. "A Biological Basis for Expected and Non-expected Utility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 397-424, February.
  6. Rogers, Alan R, 1994. "Evolution of Time Preference by Natural Selection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 460-81, June.
  7. Arthur J. Robson, 2001. "Why Would Nature Give Individuals Utility Functions?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(4), pages 900-929, August.
  8. Machina, Mark J, 1982. ""Expected Utility" Analysis without the Independence Axiom," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(2), pages 277-323, March.
  9. Arthur J. Robson, 2001. "The Biological Basis of Economic Behavior," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(1), pages 11-33, March.
  10. 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.
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