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Evolution of preferences in group-structured populations: genes, guns, and culture

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  • Alger, Ingela
  • Lehmann, Laurent
  • Weibull, Jörgen W.

Abstract

Humans have evolved in populations structured in groups that extended beyond the nuclear family. Individuals interacted with each other within these groups and there was limited migration and sometimes conáicts between these groups. Suppose that during this evolution, individuals transmitted their behaviors or preferences to their (genetic or cultural) o§spring, and that material outcomes resulting from the interaction determined which parents were more successful than others in producing (genetic or cultural) o§spring. Should one then expect pure material self-interest to prevail? Some degree of altruism, spite, inequity aversion or morality? By building on established models in population biology we analyze the role that di§erent aspects of population structureó such as group size, migration rates, probability of group conáicts, cultural loyalty towards parentsó play in shaping behaviors and preferences which, once established, cannot be displaced by any other preference. In particular, we establish that uninvadable preferences under limited migration between groups will consist of a materially self-interested, a moral, and an other-regarding component, and we show how the strength of each component depends on population structure.

Suggested Citation

  • Alger, Ingela & Lehmann, Laurent & Weibull, Jörgen W., 2018. "Evolution of preferences in group-structured populations: genes, guns, and culture," TSE Working Papers 18-888, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Oct 2019.
  • Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:32436
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    Cited by:

    1. Alger, Ingela & Van Leeuwen, Boris, 2019. "Estimating Social Preferences and Kantian Morality in Strategic Interactions," TSE Working Papers 19-1056, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Jan 2021.
    2. Ingela Alger & Jörgen W. Weibull, 2019. "Evolutionary Models of Preference Formation," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 11(1), pages 329-354, August.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Strategic interactions; Preference evolution; Evolution by natural selection; Cultural transmission; Pro-sociality; Altruism; Morality; Spite;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Modern Monetary Theory;
    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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