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Human nature and institutional analysis

This essay reviews some findings in cognition sciences and examines their consequences for the analysis of institutions. It starts by exploring how humans’ specialization in producing knowledge ensures our success in dominating the environment but also changes fast our environment. So fast that it did not give time to natural selection to adapt our biology, causing it to be potentially maladapted in important dimensions. A main function of institutions is therefore to fill the gap between the demands of our relatively new environment and our biology, still adapted to our ancestral environment as hunter-gatherers. Moreover, institutions are built with the available elements, which include our instincts. A deeper understanding of both aspects, their adaptive function and this recruitment of ancestral instincts, will add greatly to our ability to manage institutions.

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File URL: http://www.econ.upf.edu/docs/papers/downloads/822.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 822.

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Date of creation: Mar 2005
Date of revision: Sep 2008
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:822
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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  1. Ernst Fehr & Simon G�chter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 159-181, Summer.
  2. Kleiter, Gernot D. & Krebs, Marianne & Doherty, Michael E. & Garavan, Hugh & Chadwick, Randall & Brake, Gregory, 1997. "Do Subjects Understand Base Rates?," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 25-61, October.
  3. Coase, R H, 1976. "Adam Smith's Views of Man," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(3), pages 529-46, October.
  4. Bailey, Martin J, 1992. "Approximate Optimality of Aboriginal Property Rights," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 183-98, April.
  5. Joseph Henrich & Robert Boyd & Samuel Bowles & Colin Camerer & Ernst Fehr & Herbert Gintis & Richard McElreath, 2001. "Cooperation, Reciprocity and Punishment in Fifteen Small-scale Societies," Working Papers 01-01-007, Santa Fe Institute.
  6. Frank, Robert H, 1987. "If Homo Economicus Could Choose His Own Utility Function, Would He Want One with a Conscience?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 593-604, September.
  7. Cosmides, Leda & Tooby, John, 1994. "Better than Rational: Evolutionary Psychology and the Invisible Hand," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 327-32, May.
  8. Valley, Kathleen & Thompson, Leigh & Gibbons, Robert & Bazerman, Max H., 2002. "How Communication Improves Efficiency in Bargaining Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 127-155, January.
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