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Altruistically Inclined?

The Behavioral Sciences, Evolutionary Theory, and the Origins of Reciprocity

Alexander J. Field

Publication Year: 2002

Alexander J. Field is the Michel and Mary Orradre Professor of Economics at Santa Clara University.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Economics, Cognition, and Society

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pp. ix-xvi

Two strangers meet far from the reach of organized society. Each must decide quickly whether to attack, or await the action of the other. Together, they are better off choosing restraint and thus opening up possibilities for mutually beneficial intercourse. Desires for both self-protection and possible wealth enhancement, however, impel each of them toward an ...

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Prologue: The World's First Prisoner’s Dilemma Experiment

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pp. 1-27

By the time Thomas Hobbes published Leviathan in 1651, his observation of the English Civil War had led him to develop an intuitive understanding of the Prisoner's Dilemma, and his analysis of and solution to it underlay what would become one of the most influential treatises in Western political theory. In a state of nature, he argued, individuals would find it ...

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1. Evidence and Logic

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pp. 29-92

This chapter develops broad contours of the book's argument, adduces additional experimental and observational evidence, and establishes foundations for the more detailed treatments of chapters 2 through 6. It extends the prologue's discussion of the limits of rational choice theory as well as the sociological/anthropological approach in understanding the empirical ...

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2. Multilevel Selection and Restraint on Harm

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pp. 93-119

Skepticism about the existence of any type of "true" altruism beyond that displayed toward kin draws powerful support from a widespread belief among social scientists and others that such predispositions, had they arisen initially at low frequencies in a population, could not have with stood the disadvantageous force of natural selection operating on ...

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3. Reciprocal Altruism, Norms, and Evolutionary Game Theory

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pp. 121-157

In complex social settings where people have established reputations they care about and where they may anticipate repeat engagements with their counterparties, most people most of the time play cooperate when finding themselves in PD-like situations. They do so without even thinking about whether this is the "smart" thing to do. In many instances such behavior ...

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4. Deconstructing Frank

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pp. 159-208

Robert Frank's widely cited 1988 book Passions within Reason represents a heartfelt plea, particularly to social scientists, to recognize the category of altruistic behavior as empirically relevant. For skeptics, it provides an accessible summary of evidence of such behavior. What follows, however, is critical of Frank's second key objective-his attempted explanation of ...

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5. Altruism, Rule Violators, and the Case for Modularity

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pp. 209-262

Pioneering social theorists such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau explored the emergence of complex social organization in ways that left little place for knowledge known or discoverable about human prehistory that might contribute to evolutionarily informed expectations about fundamental behavioral propensities. Hobbes, Locke, ...

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6. Modularity and the “Heuristics and Biases” Research Program

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pp. 263-294

Much of economic theory has been guided by a methodology that, in its more enthusiastic moments, seems to glorify the irrelevance of empirical research on how people actually behave (see, e.g., Selten 1998). In this light it is not surprising that with one or two important exceptions, economists' knowledge of or interest in experimental methods historically has been ...

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7. The Invisible Hand and the Blind Watchmaker

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pp. 295-335

The heuristics and bias program has generated a body of striking experimental results that all serious students of human behavior need to address. It has increased our receptivity to what can be learned from experimental methods. And it has introduced into our vocabulary the important concept of framing: the idea that people may reason about and respond differently ...


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pp. 337-358


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pp. 359-373

E-ISBN-13: 9780472027262
E-ISBN-10: 0472027263
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472089475
Print-ISBN-10: 0472089471

Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 2 figures, 2 tables
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: Economics, Cognition, and Society