I agree with Michael Weissman that this study appears to be a legitimate
scientific exploration of economic behavior and cultural variation. Can
he explain what this has to do with evolutionary psychology or
From: Michael Weissman
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: 5/12/02 6:45 PM
Subject: Re: Gintis Unfairly Accused, Unjustly Condemned?
I looked up the first paper on Gintis' web site. Here's their abstract.
'Economic Man' in Cross-cultural Perspective: Behavioral Experiments in
Small-scale Societies [with Joseph Henrich, Robert Boyd, Samuel
Bowles, Colin Camerer, Ernst Fehr, Richard McElreath, Michael Alvard,
Abigail Barr, Jean Ensminger, Kim Hill, Francisco Gil-White, Michael
Gurven, Frank Marlowe, John Q. Patton, Natalie Smith, and David Tracer]
Submitted to Behavior and Brain Science 2002.
Experimental behavioral scientists have found consistent deviations
from the predictions of the canonical model of self-interest in over a
hundred experiments from around the world. Prior research cannot
determine whether this uniformity results from universal behavioral
patterns of behavior, or result from the limited cultural variation
among the university students subject pools used in virtually all prior
experimental work. To address the above questions, we undertook a
cross-cultural study of behavior in Ultimatum, Public Goods, and
Dictator Games in fifteen small-scale societies exhibiting a wide
variety of economic and cultural conditions.
We found, first, that the canonical selfishness-based model fails in
all of the societies studied. Second, there is more behavioral
variability than had 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,
individual-level economic and demographic variables do not explain game
behavior, either within or across groups. Fifth, in many cases
experimental play appears to reflect the common interactional patterns
of everyday life.
So far as I can tell the only objection raised in the SFTP list to this
research is that it doesn't read the answer out of some Sacred Text, but
actually takes a chance on seeing how the world really is.
Physics, UIUC MC-704, 1110 W. Green St., Urbana, IL 61801-3080 (USA)
Phone: (217) 333-7897; FAX: (217) 333-9819
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