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Altruism and Spite in a Selfish Gene Model of Endogenous Preferences

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  • Terence Burnham

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Abstract

Economists and biologists have long grappled with the apparent contradiction of altruism in a naturally-selected world. Standard economic models are built upon an assumption of material self-interest where agents maximize individual outcomes without regard for the effects on others. This paper begins with a brief discussion of the evidence that human behavior deviates from the economic assumption. With the goal of more accurately describing human nature, the interpersonal components of preferences are derived in a genetic model. This model predicts a variety of behaviors that are considered paradoxical within the standard economic framework. The optimal attitude towards others is parameterized by the genetic relationship between individuals and by the population size. For interactions between ‘average’ individuals, the standard economic assumption is the limiting case of the genetic model as the population becomes arbitrarily large. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

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  • Terence Burnham, 2001. "Altruism and Spite in a Selfish Gene Model of Endogenous Preferences," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 3(2), pages 123-148, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbioec:v:3:y:2001:i:2:p:123-148 DOI: 10.1023/A:1020569617214
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    9. Samuelson, Paul A, 1993. "Altruism as a Problem Involving Group versus Individual Selection in Economics and Biology," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 143-148, May.
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    Keywords

    Darwin; evolution; co-operation; ultimatum;

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