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Why Multilevel Selection Matters

  • Alexander Field

In spite of its checkered intellectual history, and in spite of the myriad proposals of alternative models that claim to account for the broad range of human behavior and to dispense with the need for selection above the organism level, a multilevel selection framework remains the only coherent means of accounting for the persistence and spread of behavioral inclinations which, at least upon first appearance at low frequency, would have been biologically altruistic. This argument is advanced on three tracks: through a review of experimental and observational evidence inconsistent with a narrow version of rational choice theory, through a critique of models or explanations purporting to account for prosocial behavior through other means, and via elaboration of the mechanisms, plausibility, and intellectual history of group selection.

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Paper provided by Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography in its series Papers on Economics and Evolution with number 2004-19.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2004-19
Contact details of provider: Postal: Deutschhausstrasse 10, 35032 Marburg
Phone: 064212824257
Fax: 064212828950
Web page: http://www.uni-marburg.de/fb19/
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  1. Alvin E. Roth & V. Prasnikar & M. Okuno-Fujiwara & S. Zamir, 1998. "Bargaining and market behavior in Jerusalem, Liubljana, Pittsburgh and Tokyo: an experimental study," Levine's Working Paper Archive 344, David K. Levine.
  2. Becker, Gary S, 1976. "Altruism, Egoism, and Genetic Fitness: Economics and Sociobiology," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 817-26, September.
  3. Field, Alexander James, 1984. "Microeconomics, Norms, and Rationality," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(4), pages 683-711, July.
  4. Field, Alexander James, 1981. "The problem with neoclassical institutional economics: A critique with special reference to the North/Thomas model of pre-1500 Europe," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 174-198, April.
  5. Field, Alexander James, 1991. "Do legal systems matter?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 1-35, January.
  6. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher & Michael Kosfeld, 2005. "Neuroeconomic Foundations of Trust and Social Preferences: Initial Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 346-351, May.
  7. Hirshleifer, J, 1978. "Competition, Cooperation, and Conflict in Economics and Biology," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 238-43, May.
  8. 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 143-48, May.
  9. Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Strong Reciprocity and Human Sociality," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2000-02, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  10. Greif, Avner, 1989. "Reputation and Coalitions in Medieval Trade: Evidence on the Maghribi Traders," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 857-882, December.
  11. 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, June.
  12. Henrich, Joseph, 2004. "Reply," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 127-143, January.
  13. Henrich, Joseph & Boyd, Robert & Bowles, Samuel & Camerer, Colin & Fehr, Ernst & Gintis, Herbert (ed.), 2004. "Foundations of Human Sociality: Economic Experiments and Ethnographic Evidence from Fifteen Small-Scale Societies," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199262052.
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