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Evolution of preferences in structured populations: Genes, guns, and culture

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  • Alger, Ingela
  • Weibull, Jörgen W.
  • Lehmann, Laurent

Abstract

During human evolution, individuals interacted mostly within small groups that were connected by limited migration and sometimes by conflicts. Which preferences, if any, will prevail in such scenarios? Building on population biology models of spatially structured populations, and assuming individuals' preferences to be their private information, we characterize those preferences that, once established, cannot be displaced by alternative preferences. We represent such uninvadable preferences in terms of fitness and in terms of material payoffs. At the fitness level, individuals can be regarded to act as if driven by a mix of self-interest and a Kantian motive that evaluates own behavior in the light of the consequences for own fitness if others adopted this behavior. This Kantian motive is borne out from (genetic or cultural) kin selection. At the material-payoff level, individuals act as if driven in part by self-interest and a Kantian motive (in terms of material payoffs), but also in part by other-regarding preferences towards other group members. This latter motive is borne out of group resource constraints and the risk of conflict with other groups. We show how group size, the migration rate, the risk of group conflicts, and cultural loyalty shape the relative strengths of these motives.

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  • Alger, Ingela & Weibull, Jörgen W. & Lehmann, Laurent, 2020. "Evolution of preferences in structured populations: Genes, guns, and culture," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 185(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jetheo:v:185:y:2020:i:c:s0022053118305337
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jet.2019.104951
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Alger, Ingela, 2021. "On the evolution of male competitiveness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 190(C), pages 228-254.
    2. Ingela Alger & Laurent Lehmann, 2023. "Evolution of Semi-Kantian Preferences in Two-Player Assortative Interactions with Complete and Incomplete Information and Plasticity," Dynamic Games and Applications, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 1288-1319, December.
    3. Ziwei Wang & Jiabin Wu, 2023. "Partner Choice and Morality: Preference Evolution under Stable Matching," Papers 2304.11504, arXiv.org, revised Oct 2023.
    4. Alger, Ingela & Rivero-Wildemauwe, José Ignacio, 2024. "Doing the right thing (or not) in a lemons-like situation: on the role of social preferences and Kantian moral concerns," TSE Working Papers 24-1531, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    5. Kenichi Kurita & Shunsuke Managi, 2022. "COVID-19 and Stigma: Evolution of Self-restraint Behavior," Dynamic Games and Applications, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 168-182, March.
    6. Serdarevic, Nina & Strømland, Eirik & Tjøtta, Sigve, 2021. "It pays to be nice: The benefits of cooperating in markets," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 90(C).
    7. Cheikbossian, Guillaume, 2021. "Evolutionarily stable in-group altruism in intergroup conflict over (local) public goods," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 206-226.
    8. Rusch, Hannes, 2023. "The logic of human intergroup conflict:," Research Memorandum 014, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    9. Alger, Ingela, 2022. "Evolutionarily stable preferences," TSE Working Papers 22-1355, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Dec 2022.
    10. Alger, Ingela & Van Leeuwen, Boris, 2019. "Estimating Social Preferences and Kantian Morality in Strategic Interactions," TSE Working Papers 19-1056, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Nov 2023.
    11. Ennio Bilancini & Leonardo Boncinelli & Alessandro Tampieri, 2021. "Strategy Assortativity and the Evolution of Parochialism," DEM Discussion Paper Series 21-20, Department of Economics at the University of Luxembourg.
    12. Boyu Zhang & Yali Dong & Cheng-Zhong Qin & Sergey Gavrilets, 2023. "Kinship can hinder cooperation in heterogeneous populations," Papers 2305.19026, arXiv.org, revised Jun 2023.
    13. Alger, Ingela & Gavrilets, Sergey & Durkee, Patrick, 2024. "Proximate and ultimate drivers of norms and norm change," IAST Working Papers 24-163, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    14. José Ignacio Rivero Wildemauwe, 2023. "Trade among moral agents with information asymmetries," THEMA Working Papers 2023-10, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    15. Cheikbossian, Guillaume, 2021. "The evolutionary stability of in-group altruism in productive and destructive group contests," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 188(C), pages 236-252.
    16. Norman, Thomas W.L., 2020. "The evolution of monetary equilibrium," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 233-239.
    17. José Ignacio Rivero Wildemauwe, 2023. "Moral motivations in sequential buyer-seller interactions with adverse selection," THEMA Working Papers 2023-11, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    18. Bayer, Péter, 2023. "Evolutionarily stable networks," TSE Working Papers 23-1487, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Strategic interactions; Preference evolution; Evolution by natural selection; Cultural transmission; Pro- and anti-sociality; Kantian moral concerns;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Modern Monetary Theory;
    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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