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Evolutionary Approaches Towards Preferences


A recent psychological and experimental literature on human behavior suggests that standard preferences assumed in economic models are inadequate to explain human choice behaviors in numerous environments. The primary objective of this project is to establish evolutionary foundations for non-standard preferences. Most models in economics take preferences as given and derive the choices induced by these preferences. We intend to do just the opposite. We characterize the choice behavior that would survive evolution and then represent this choice behavior with preferences. That is, we identify the preferences that induce evolutionarily stable choice behavior. We identify each choice behavior with a gene. Hence, the choices an individual makes during her lifetime are determined by her genes, where these are inherited from her parents. A population can be defined as a group of individuals having the same genes. Populations with different genes may grow at different rates. Only those genes that induce the highest possible population growth rate given the physical environment survive evolution. We wish to apply the principle described above to derive implications for time preferences, preference for similarities, preferences for discrimination, preferences for conformity, and other important socio-economic behaviors. The goal of the project is to provide a theoretical guidance for which preferences are admissible and which are not likely to arise.

Call for proposal

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Host institution

EU contribution
€ 600 000,00
Houghton Street 1
WC2A 2AE London
United Kingdom

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London Inner London — West Westminster
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Balazs Szentes (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Jane Ellison (Ms.)
Total cost
No data

Beneficiaries (2)