Group Selection and Behavioral Economics

Authored by: Alexander J. Field

Handbook of Contemporary Behavioral Economics

Print publication date:  July  2006
Online publication date:  January  2015

Print ISBN: 9780765613028
eBook ISBN: 9781315703879
Adobe ISBN: 9781317469162


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Economists reading Stephen Pinker’s 2002 book, How the Mind Works, might be forgiven some surprise at finding their discipline lumped together with sociology and anthropology and accused of a common error. Pinker’s assault on the tendency to treat the human mind as a blank slate at birth extended the attack on the standard social science model begun by John Tooby and Leda Cosmides (1992). To these scholars, social science is largely undifferentiated by discipline—a shock to economists, who have traditionally seen themselves standing to one side of a divide separating those approaching human behavior through the study of rational choice and others emphasizing the influence of such variables as culture and social structure. To be sure, institutionalists, economic historians, and development economists have straddled these two camps uneasily, but many rational choice theorists will find it astonishing to be accused of the same error as traditional sociologists and anthropologists. Surely something must be wrong here.

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