What motives underlie the ways humans interact socially? Are these the same for all societies? Are these part of our nature, or influenced by our environments?Over the last decade, research in experimental economics has emphatically falsified the textbook representation of Homo economicus. Literally hundreds of experiments suggest that people care not only about their own material payoffs, but also about such things as fairness, equity and reciprocity. However, this research left fundamental questions unanswered: Are such social preferences stable components of (...) human nature; or, are they modulated by economic, social and cultural environments? Until now, experimental research could not address this question because virtually all subjects had been university students, and while there are cultural differences among student populations throughout the world, these differences are small compared to the full range of human social and cultural environments. A vast amount of ethnographic and historical research suggests that people's motives are influenced by economic, social, and cultural environments, yet such methods can only yield circumstantial evidence about human motives. Combining ethnographic and experimental approaches to fill this gap, this book breaks new ground in reporting the results of a large cross-cultural study aimed at determining the sources of social preferences that underlie the diversity of human sociality. The same experiments which provided evidence for social preferences among university students were performed in fifteen small-scale societies exhibiting a wide variety of social, economic and cultural conditions by experienced field researchers who had also done long-term ethnographic field work in these societies. The findings of these experiments demonstrated that no society in which experimental behaviour is consistent with the canonical model of self-interest. Indeed, results showed that the variation in behaviour is far greater than previously thought, and that the differences between societies in market integration and the importance of cooperation explain a substantial portion of this variation, which individual-level economic and demographic variables could not. Finally, the extent to which experimental play mirrors patterns of interaction found in everyday life is traced.The book starts with a succinct but substantive introduction to the use of game theory as an analytical tool and its use in the social sciences for the rigorous testing of hypotheses about fundamental aspects of social behaviour outside artificially constructed laboratories. The results of the fifteen case studies are summarized in a suggestive chapter about the scope of the project. (shrink)
Researchers from across the social sciences have found consistent deviations from the predictions of the canonical model of self-interest in hundreds of experiments from around the world. This research, however, cannot determine whether the uniformity results from universal patterns of human behavior or from the limited cultural variation available among the university students used in virtually all prior experimental work. To address this, we undertook a cross-cultural study of behavior in ultimatum, public goods, and dictator games in a range of (...) small-scale societies exhibiting a wide variety of economic and cultural conditions. We found, first, that the canonical model – based on self-interest – fails in all of the societies studied. Second, our data reveal substantially more behavioral variability across social groups than has been found in previous research. Third, group-level differences in economic organization and the structure of social interactions explain a substantial portion of the behavioral variation across societies: the higher the degree of market integration and the higher the payoffs to cooperation in everyday life, the greater the level of prosociality expressed in experimental games. Fourth, the available individual-level economic and demographic variables do not consistently explain game behavior, either within or across groups. Fifth, in many cases experimental play appears to reflect the common interactional patterns of everyday life. Key Words: altruism; cooperation; cross-cultural research; experimental economics; game theory; ultimatum game; public goods game; self-interest. (shrink)
Should the idea of economic man-the amoral and self-interested Homo economicus-determine how we expect people to respond to monetary rewards, punishments, and other incentives? Samuel Bowles answers with a resounding "no." Policies that follow from this paradigm, he shows, may "crowd out" ethical and generous motives and thus backfire. But incentives per se are not really the culprit. Bowles shows that crowding out occurs when the message conveyed by fines and rewards is that self-interest is expected, that the employer thinks (...) the workforce is lazy, or that the citizen cannot otherwise be trusted to contribute to the public good. Using historical and recent case studies as well as behavioral experiments, Bowles shows how well-designed incentives can crowd in the civic motives on which good governance depends. (shrink)
We consider two reasons why firms should be owned and run democratically by their workers. The first concerns accountability : Because the employment relationship involves the exercise of power, its governance should on democratic grounds be accountable to those most directly affected. The second concerns efficiency : The democratic firm uses a lower level of inputs per unit of output than the analogous capitalist firm.
We would like to thank the commentators for their generous comments, valuable insights and helpful suggestions. We begin this response by discussing the selfishness axiom and the importance of the preferences, beliefs, and constraints framework as a way of modeling some of the proximate influences on human behavior. Next, we broaden the discussion to ultimate-level (that is evolutionary) explanations, where we review and clarify gene-culture coevolutionary theory, and then tackle the possibility that evolutionary approaches that exclude culture might be sufficient (...) to explain the data. Finally, we consider various methodological and epistemological concerns expressed by our commentators. (shrink)
Recent investigations have uncovered large, consistent deviations from the predictions of the textbook representation of Homo economicus (Roth et al, 1992, Fehr and Gächter, 2000, Camerer 2001). One problem appears to lie in economists’ canonical assumption that individuals are entirely self-interested: in addition to their own material payoffs, many experimental subjects appear to care about fairness and reciprocity, are willing to change the distribution of material outcomes at personal cost, and reward those who act in a cooperative manner while punishing (...) those who do not even when these actions are costly to the individual. These deviations from what we will term the canonical model have important consequences for a wide range of economic phenomena, including the optimal design of institutions and contracts, the allocation of property rights, the conditions for successful collective action, the analysis of incomplete contracts, and the persistence of noncompetitive wage premia. Fundamental questions remain unanswered. Are the deviations from the canonical model evidence of universal patterns of behavior, or do the individual’s economic and social environments shape behavior? If the latter, which economic and social conditions are involved? Is reciprocal behavior better explained statistically by individuals’ attributes such as their sex, age, or relative wealth, or by the attributes of the group to which the individuals belong? Are there cultures that approximate the canonical account of self-regarding behavior? Existing research cannot answer such questions because virtually all subjects have been university students, and while there are cultural differences among student populations throughout the world, these differences are small compared to the range of all social and cultural environments. To address the above questions, we and our collaborators undertook a large cross-cultural study of behavior in ultimatum, public good, and dictator games.. (shrink)
We consider two reasons why firms should be owned and run democratically by their workers. The first concernsaccountability: Because the employment relationship involves the exercise of power, its governance should on democratic grounds be accountable to those most directly affected. The second concernsefficiency: The democratic firm uses a lower level of inputs per unit of output than the analogous capitalist firm.
Experiments are not models of cooperation; instead, they demonstrate the presence of the ethical and other-regarding predispositions that often motivate cooperation and the punishment of free-riders. Experimental behavior predicts subjects' cooperation in the field. Ethnographic studies in small-scale societies without formal coercive institutions demonstrate that disciplining defectors is both essential to cooperation and often costly to the punisher.
Is the United States "the land of equal opportunity" or is the playing field tilted in favor of those whose parents are wealthy, well educated, and white? If family background is important in getting ahead, why? And if the processes that transmit economic status from parent to child are unfair, could public policy address the problem? Unequal Chances provides new answers to these questions by leading economists, sociologists, biologists, behavioral geneticists, and philosophers.New estimates show that intergenerational inequality in the United (...) States is far greater than was previously thought. Moreover, while the inheritance of wealth and the better schooling typically enjoyed by the children of the well-to-do contribute to this process, these two standard explanations fail to explain the extent of intergenerational status transmission. The genetic inheritance of IQ is even less important. Instead, parent-offspring similarities in personality and behavior may play an important role. Race contributes to the process, and the intergenerational mobility patterns of African Americans and European Americans differ substantially.Following the editors' introduction are chapters by Greg Duncan, Ariel Kalil, Susan E. Mayer, Robin Tepper, and Monique R. Payne; Bhashkar Mazumder; David J. Harding, Christopher Jencks, Leonard M. Lopoo, and Susan E. Mayer; Anders Björklund, Markus Jäntti, and Gary Solon; Tom Hertz; John C. Loehlin; Melissa Osborne Groves; Marcus W. Feldman, Shuzhuo Li, Nan Li, Shripad Tuljapurkar, and Xiaoyi Jin; and Adam Swift. (shrink)
Economic institutions governing such activities as food sharing among non-kin, the accumulation and inheritance of wealth, and the division of labor and its rewards are human-constructed environments capable of imparting distinctive direction and pace to the process of biological evolution and cultural change. Where differing structures of these institutions take the form of distinct conventions sustained by (near) mutual adherence, small initial differences may support divergent evolutionary trajectories even in the absence of conformist behaviors.
The authors make a convincing case that behavioral scientists have mistakenly focused on improving individual decision making and in so doing have deflected attention from necessary changes in the rules of the game – societal institutions and policies – that shape individual decisions. To address this problem a behavioral science of public policy requires rethinking fundamental economic concepts including preferences and incentives.