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 ecomics has emphatically falsified the textbook representation of Homo ecomicus. Literally hundreds of experiments suggest that people care t 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 ecomic, social and cultural environments? Until w, experimental research could t 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 ethgraphic and historical research suggests that people's motives are influenced by ecomic, social, and cultural environments, yet such methods can only yield circumstantial evidence about human motives. Combining ethgraphic 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 (n-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, ecomic and cultural conditions by experienced field researchers who had also done long-term ethgraphic field work in these societies. The findings of these experiments demonstrated that society in which experimental behaviour is consistent with the canical 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 ecomic and demographic variables could t. 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.
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.
Oxford University Press
Date of Publication
Science & Mathematics: Textbooks & Study Guides
Place of Publication
Country of Publication
Oxford University Press
numerous tables & figures
Colin Camerer, Ernst Fehr, Herbert Gintis, Joseph Henrich, Robert Boyd, Samuel Bowles