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Altruism and Selfish Behavior. The Docility Model Revisited


  • Secchi Davide

    (Department of Economics, University of Insubria, Italy)


Herbert A. Simon is widely known for his studies on rationality, artificial intelligence and for his pioneering approach to organizational studies. In one of his latest works, he presented a theory of human interaction, focused on the conflict between the selfish and the altruistic that can be seen as the essence of human relationships. The model is quite ambiguous: (1) it follows a kind of social Darwinism that (2) postulates selfish individuals’ extinction. Taking up Simon’s hypotheses on altruism, docility, and selfish behavior, we develop an alternative model of human interaction. The main objective of the paper is to show that rejecting neo-Darwinism and assuming slight complications in the model can explain more in terms of social system interactions. We assume that docility and then altruism, in a technical sense, is the basis of social interaction as it shapes the whole system. It is worth noting that, in the model, selfish individuals do not disappear.

Suggested Citation

  • Secchi Davide, 2005. "Altruism and Selfish Behavior. The Docility Model Revisited," Economics and Quantitative Methods qf0505, Department of Economics, University of Insubria.
  • Handle: RePEc:ins:quaeco:qf0505

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-1093, Nov.-Dec..
    2. Knudsen, Thorbjorn, 2003. "Simon's selection theory: Why docility evolves to breed successful altruism," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 229-244, April.
    3. John Conlisk, 1996. "Why Bounded Rationality?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 669-700, June.
    4. Lunt, Peter, 2004. "Questions of definition scope in economic theories of altruism: A commentary on 'What is altruism?' by Elias Khalil," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 135-139, February.
    5. Foss, Nicolai J., 2003. "Bounded rationality in the economics of organization: "Much cited and little used"," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 245-264, April.
    6. von Hayek, Friedrich August, 1989. "The Pretence of Knowledge," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(6), pages 3-7, December.
    7. Milton Friedman & L. J. Savage, 1948. "The Utility Analysis of Choices Involving Risk," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 279-279.
    8. Khalil, Elias L., 2004. "What is altruism?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 97-123, February.
    9. Secchi Davide & Bardone Emanuele, 2005. "Extending the Bounded Rationality Model: The Distributed Cognition Approach," Economics and Quantitative Methods qf0506, Department of Economics, University of Insubria.
    10. Wilkinson, Gerald S., 2004. "A reply to Elias Khalil's "What is altruism?"," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 125-127, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fanelli Luca & Paruolo Paolo, 2006. "Exchange rates, prices and their speed of adjustment," Economics and Quantitative Methods qf0607, Department of Economics, University of Insubria.

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    docility; altruism; social system; bounded rationality; social interactions; social Darwinism;

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