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How Altruism Can Prevail in an Evolutionary Environment

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  • Theodore C. Bergstrom

    (University of Michigan, Dept of Economics)

  • Oded Stark

Abstract

Why are economists convinced that {\it homo economicus}\/ is selfish? No doubt we find considerable support for this hypothesis in the behavior of our colleagues. Beyond this, a plausible evolutionary argument for selfishness would assert that if natural selection favors those who receive high payoffs, and if altruists get lower payoffs than selfish individuals, then evolution will tend to eliminate altruists. In this paper, we will show that, paradoxically, evolution can sustain cooperative behavior between relatives or neighbors even in single-shot prisoner's dilemma models, where cooperation benefits one's opponent at a cost to oneself.

Suggested Citation

  • Theodore C. Bergstrom & Oded Stark, 1994. "How Altruism Can Prevail in an Evolutionary Environment," Microeconomics 9401001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmi:9401001
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Bergstrom, Theodore C, 1995. "On the Evolution of Altruistic Ethical Rules for Siblings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 58-81, March.
    2. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, June.
    3. Bergstrom, Theodore C & Stark, Oded, 1993. "How Altruism Can Prevail in an Evolutionary Environment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 149-155, May.
    4. Jack Hirshleifer, 1978. "Natural Economy Versus Political Economy," UCLA Economics Working Papers 129, UCLA Department of Economics.
    5. Donald Cox & Oded Stark, 1993. "Intergenerational Transfers And Demonstration Effect," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 244, Boston College Department of Economics.
    6. Young, H Peyton, 1993. "The Evolution of Conventions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(1), pages 57-84, January.
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    8. Binmore, Kenneth G. & Samuelson, Larry, 1992. "Evolutionary stability in repeated games played by finite automata," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 278-305, August.
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    10. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1977. "Economics from a Biological Viewpoint," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 1-52, April.
    11. Hansson, Ingemar & Stuart, Charles, 1990. "Malthusian Selection of Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 529-544, June.
    12. Stark, Oded, 1989. "Altruism and the Quality of Life," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 86-90, May.
    13. Theodore C. Bergstrom, 1999. "Systems of Benevolent Utility Functions," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 1(1), pages 71-100, January.
    14. Binmore, K. & Samuelson, L., 1990. "Evolutionary Stability In Repeated Games Played By Finite Automata," Working papers 90-29, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D2 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design

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