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Homo Moralis: Preference Evolution under Incomplete Information and Assortative Matching

What preferences will prevail in a society of rational individuals when preference evolution is driven by their success in terms of resulting payoffs? We show that when individuals’ preferences are their private information, a convex combinations of selfishness and morality stand out as evolutionarily stable. We call individuals with such preferences homo moralis. At one end of the spectrum is homo oeconomicus, who acts so as to maximize his or her material payoff. At the opposite end is homo kantiensis, who does what would be “the right thing to do,” in terms of material payoffs, if all others would do likewise. We show that the stable degree of morality - the weight placed on the moral goal - equals the index of assortativity in the matching process. The motivation of homo moralis is arguably compatible with how people often reason, and the induced behavior agrees with pro-social behaviors observed in many laboratory experiments.

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Paper provided by Carleton University, Department of Economics in its series Carleton Economic Papers with number 12-01.

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Length: 47 pages
Date of creation: 06 Feb 2012
Date of revision: 14 May 2012
Publication status: Published: Carleton Economic Papers
Handle: RePEc:car:carecp:12-01
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