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Economic Behavior - Evolutionary vs. Behavioral Perspectives


  • Ulrich Witt



An evolutionary perspective on economic behavior has to account for the influences that the human genetic endowment has on the choices the agents make. Likely to have been fixed in times of fierce selection pressure, this endowment is presumably adapted to the living conditions of early humans. If at all, behavioral economics accounts for its influences on economic decision making in a way similar to the approach taken by evolutionary psychology, i.e. by focusing on decision heuristics and their tensions with modern rationality standards. In an evolutionary perspective, that focus needs to be extended so as to also embrace the motivational underpinnings of economic behavior. In the language of economics this means to inquire into the agents' preferences and to explain how they relate to the human genetic endowment and how they change over time. The paper discusses several implications of such an extension.

Suggested Citation

  • Ulrich Witt, 2010. "Economic Behavior - Evolutionary vs. Behavioral Perspectives," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2010-17, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  • Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2010-17

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. de Haan, Peter & Mueller, Michel G. & Peters, Anja, 2006. "Does the hybrid Toyota Prius lead to rebound effects? Analysis of size and number of cars previously owned by Swiss Prius buyers," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 592-605, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Schubert, 2012. "Pursuing Happiness," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(2), pages 245-261, May.
    2. Schubert, Christian, 2015. "Opportunity And Preference Learning," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 31(02), pages 275-295, July.
    3. Lades, Leonhard K., 2014. "Impulsive consumption and reflexive thought: Nudging ethical consumer behavior," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 114-128.
    4. Foster, John & Metcalfe, J. Stan, 2012. "Economic emergence: An evolutionary economic perspective," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 420-432.
    5. Leonhard K. Lades, 2011. "Towards an Incentive Salience Model of Intertemporal Choice," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2011-18, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.

    More about this item


    behavioral economics; evolutionary economics; Darwinism; decision heuristics; preferences; development; growth; welfare Length 21 pages;

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • B25 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Austrian; Stockholm School
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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