To have aspirations as a society makes no sense at all if we’re each slaves to our genetic dispositions and if whatever goals human beings can individually and collectively have are nothing but reflections of the goals of our genes. But an intellectually rigorous, evolutionarily-informed view of human nature and behavior by no means implies this.
A clever decision experiment suggests that most people care about fairness towards those who’ll follow after us, but shows that depending on what institutions are in place, most people may not be enough.
Are we mature enough to discuss genes, race or ethnicity, and intelligence scientifically? Testing the boundaries of the acceptable merely to sell books makes Troublesome Inheritance an inauspicious start.
"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." So, is dislike of inequality built into the human psyche? Maybe so, but with an awful lot of wiggle room.
In experiments in which participants play a series of games with choice of partners, then start a new series with clean reputation, we asked: What lessons do people take from experience? We found the answer to sometimes be: cooperating pays. Understanding how trusting and cooperative orientations are nurtured may one day help us to build healthier societies.
Being nice pays off in the experimental decision lab (and at least sometimes, in life) when a good reputation means other nice types want you in their group. But opportunists always "defect" on the last round of play. We study what lessons people draw from such finitely repeated games by seeing what happens when they get to start over.
Have you picked up some of the chatter on international intelligence? No, I'm not talking about classified intelligence leaks here, but something you might find even more troubling. Why are average IQs lower in poorer countries?
The book by the Berkeley Nobel Prize winner and behavioral economics pioneer George Akerlof, and by noted Yale economist Robert Schiller, makes the case that understanding and responding properly to the economy’s ups and downs is impossible without considering human psychology.
The father of the U.S. Constitution believed that checks and balances alone would not suffice to secure the kind government required by a free society, and that at least some virtue in the citizenry is also needed. Can we find such virtue amongst us?
An alien observer of our economy who could count up only tangibles such as the contents of our supermarkets and big-box stores would be missing at least half of the story, because at least half of what determines how well we meet even our most material of needs exists in the software of human minds
If talk were too cheap, every message would be babble. Even attempts to deceive would be inexplicable unless some statements can be given credence. Experimental evidence suggests that there's a default bias toward relatively truthful utterances, and that the ability and inclination to punish deception may well have helped this bias--and hence language itself--to evolve.
With income and wealth inequality running at half century records and with the overwhelming majority of the population standing to gain materially from taxing the rich more heavily than the middle class, why aren’t a large majority of voters clamoring to restore the progressive tax?
Our need to get even serves us well as a species, if not always as individuals. The knowledge that people get angry at being crossed helps keep us from taking advantage of them when we might otherwise get away with it.
A self-interested human nature is said to necessitate a private enterprise-based market economy with high levels of income inequality. But our society could hardly function if we were entirely selfish, and the new experimental and behavioral economics of social interaction provides plenty of evidence that we’re not. What does it all mean for the possibility of improving our society? For that of eliminating extreme poverty and violence elsewhere? This blog reports the new experimental results and addresses their larger implications.