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Foundations of Human Sociality: Economic Experiments and Ethnographic Evidence from Fifteen Small-Scale Societies [Paperback]

Joseph Henrich , Robert Boyd , Samuel Bowles , Colin Camerer , Ernst Fehr

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Book Description

April 7 2004
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 (non-selfish) 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.


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From the Publisher

numerous tables & figures

About the Author

Joseph Henrich is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Emory University. As a theorist, experimentalist and ethnographer, Henrich's work spans Anthropology, Biology, and Economics, and he has published in the leading journals in all three fields. As a field worker, he has conducted research in Peru (Amazonia), Chile, the US, and Fiji. Samuel Bowles is Professor in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Siena, and Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has also been Professor of Economics at Harvard. He is Director of the Economics Program at the Santa Fe Institute, and Co-Coordinator of its Research Program in Culture and Evolutionary Dynamics. Robert Boyd is Professor of Anthropology at UCLA. He has also been Assistant Professor at Emory University and Duke University. He is a member of the editorial board of Quantitative Anthropology, Associate Editor for Evolution and Human Behaviour, and Co-director of the McArthur Foundation Preferences Project. He has published numerous articles and has co-authored two books on human evolution. Colin Camerer is the Axline Professor of Business Economics at Caltech (in Pasadena, California), where he teaches both psychology and economics. He worked at Kellogg, Wharton, and Chicago business schools before Caltech. He is the co-author or editor of three books, and the author of Behavioral Game Theory (Princeton, 2003). Camerer was the first behavioral economist to become a Fellow of the Econometric Society, in 1999, and was the president of the Economic Science Association from 2001 to 2003. Ernst Fehr is Professor of Economics and Director of the Institute for Empirical Resarch in Economics at the University of Zurich. He is also Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for the Analysis of Economic Growth, and a Fellow of CEPR and CESifo. In September 1999 he was awarded the prestigious Gossen prize of the German Economic Assocation (Verein fur Socialpolitik). Herbert Gintis is a member of the External Faculty of the Santa Fe Institute, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, and Adjunct Professor at the Department of Politics, New York University.

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