Evolutionary Behavioral Economics

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This chapter explores how the economic model of individual behavior can be improved by incorporating a number of insights from evolutionary theory and complex systems theory. Insights from psychology, the neurosciences, and the behavioral strand of economics may be better understood from an evolutionary and complexity perspective. It takes an integrated interdisciplinary approach to economic phenomena. Core concepts in economic theory (preference and choice) are clarified and Tinbergen's "four questions" about the origins of behavior are used to provide a framework. Informed by Tinbergen, areas from behavioral science are presented which may be useful for understanding economic behavior: some are directly evolutionary, while others come from scientific contexts informed by evolutionary theory. Each area has yielded well-researched ideas that provide considerable insight into human nature. It concludes with a review of where research stands today and where it could be directed in the future.


In David S. Wilson and Alan Kirman (Eds.), Complexity and Evolution: Toward a New Synthesis for Economics. Dr. Burnham's chapter begins on page 113.

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MIT and Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies