Herbert Gintis

Herbert Gintis
Santa Fe Institute · Behavioral Science

MA Mathematics, Ph.D. Economics, Harvard University

About

392
Publications
155,593
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35,477
Citations
Additional affiliations
January 2009 - present
New York University
Position
  • New York University
February 2005 - present
Central European University
Position
  • Professor
January 2004 - December 2012
Santa Fe Institute

Publications

Publications (392)
Chapter
Choice behavior can generally be best modeled using the rational actor model, according to which individuals have a time-, state-, and social contextdependent preference function over outcomes, and beliefs concerning the probability that particular actions lead to particular outcomes. Every argument that I have seen for rejecting the rational actor...
Article
Standard economic theory has told us for more than half a century that, to attain a high level of social welfare, there is no viable alternative to a market economy regulated by a powerful state. Critics often represent standard economic theory as a doctrinal defense of the free market. The truth is quite the opposite. Free market ideology is unfou...
Article
We deploy the most up-to-date evidence available in various behavioral fields in support of the following hypothesis: The emergence of bipedalism and cooperative breeding in the hominin line, together with environmental developments that made a diet of meat from large animals adaptive, as well as cultural innovations in the form of fire, cooking, a...
Article
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Many studies have shown that human cooperation is fostered by altruistic cooperation and the altruistic punishment of freeriders. A study now shows significant asymmetries between cooperation in the initial provision of a social good and cooperation in the maintenance of an established social good.
Chapter
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 integ...
Book
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 integ...
Article
The most straightforward defense of political democracy is grounded in rational choice. Political democracy gives people power in public life parallel to that afforded by markets in private life: the power to turn their preferences into social outcomes. However, rational choice models of voter behavior dramatically underpredict voter turnout in all...
Article
We introduce, in the standard exchange economy model, market games in which agents use private prices as strategies. We give conditions on the game form that ensure that the only strict Nash equilibria of the game are the competitive equilibria of the underlying economy. This equivalence result has two main corollaries. First, it adds to the eviden...
Article
Culture-led gene-culture coevolution is a framework within which substantive explanations of human evolution must be located. It is not itself an explanation. Explanations depend on such concrete historical evolutionary factors such as the control of fire collective childrearing lethal weapon technology altruistic cooperation and punishment and the...
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The comments on Dirk Helbing and my paper “Homo Socialis: An Analytical Core for Sociological Theory†have provided many insightful suggestions. Several, such as Siegwart Lindenberg’s (2015) proposal to include flexible activation to the core and David Wolpert’s (2015) persona model, I take to be interesting complements to our suggestions. O...
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We provide the most up-to-date evidence available in various behavioral fields in support of the hypothesis that the emergence of bipedalism and cooperative breeding in the hominin line—together with environmental developments that made a diet of meat from large animals adaptive as well as cultural innovation in the form of fire and cooking—created...
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Herbert Gintis applauds two books that powerfully enrich the dialogue on behavioural science.
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Special Issue of the Review of Behavioral Economics on „Homo Socialis“, Volume 2, Issue 1-2 (2015)
Article
Within a general equilibrium framework à la (Long and Plosser, 1983), we investigate the dynamics emerging from the interactions of households and firms that are adaptive price setters and financially constrained. Adaptive price-setting behavior induces micro-founded out-of-equilibrium dynamics along which agents become heterogeneous in terms of pr...
Book
Game theory is central to understanding human behavior and relevant to all of the behavioral sciences—from biology and economics, to anthropology and political science. However, as this book demonstrates, game theory alone cannot fully explain human behavior and should instead complement other key concepts championed by the behavioral disciplines....
Chapter
This chapter applies the modal logic of knowledge developed in earlier chapters to explore sufficient conditions for a Nash equilibrium in two-player games. It expands the modal logic of knowledge to multiple agents and proves a theorem that asserts that an event that is self-evident for each member of a group is common knowledge. This theorem is s...
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Small-scale human societies are a leap in size and complexity from those of our primate ancestors. We propose that the behavioral predispositions which allowed the evolution of small-scale societies were also those that allowed the cultural evolution of large-scale sociality, in the form of multiple transitions to large-scale societies. Although su...
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Religion may be one factor that enabled large-scale complex human societies to evolve. Utilizing a cultural evolutionary approach, this chapter seeks explanations for patterns of complexity and variation in religion within and across groups, over time. Properties of religious systems (e.g., rituals, ritualized behaviors, overimitation, synchrony, s...
Chapter
Our primate ancestors evolved a complex sociopolitical order based on a social dominance hierarchy in multi-male/multi-female groups. The emergence of bipedalism and cooperative breeding in the hominin line, together with environmental developments which made a diet of meat from large animals fitness enhancing, as well as cultural innovation in the...
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Inclusive fitness theory provides conditions for the evolutionary success of a gene. These conditions ensure that the gene is selfish in the sense of Dawkins (The selfish gene, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1976): genes do not and cannot sacrifice their own fitness on behalf of the reproductive population. Therefore, while natural selection expl...
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This article shows how agent-based models of social dynamics can be treated rigorously and analytically as finite Markov processes, and their long-run properties are then given by an expanded version of the ergodic theorem for Markov processes. A Markov process model of a simplified market economy shows the fruitfulness of this approach.
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Baumard et al. mischaracterize our model of individual and social choice behavior. We model individuals who maximize preferences given their beliefs, and subject to their informational and material constraints (Fehr & Gintis 2007). Individuals thus must make trade-offs among self-regarding, other-regarding, and character virtue goals. Two genetic p...
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At the 100th Dahlem conference New Approaches in Economics after the Financial Crisis a working group devised guidelines for the documentation of computational economic agent-based models, based upon -- but differing from -- the ODD protocol Grimm et al. (2006, 2010). This paper sketches the motivation for coming up with a new set of guidelines tai...
Article
We present a mathematical model for the analysis of the bargaining games based on private prices used by Gintis to simulate the dynamics of prices in exchange economies in [H. Gintis, “The dynamics of general equilibrium”, Econ. J. 117, No. 523, 1280–1309 (2007; doi:10.1111/j.1468-0297.2007.02083.x)]. We then characterize, in the Scarf economy, a c...
Article
We develop an analytical core for sociology. We follow standard dynamical systems theory by first specifying the conditions for social equilibrium, and then study the dynamical principles that govern disequilibrium behavior. Our general social equilibrium model is an expansion of the general equilibrium model of economic theory, and our dynamical p...
Chapter
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Like other members of the Austrian school of economics, Friedrich Hayek was a bitter critic of the German historical school, whose members eschewed the study of individual choice behavior in favor of grounding economic theory in higher-level social constructs. Hayek’s opposition was methodologically individualist, but he stressed throughout his wor...
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McCullough et al.'s target article is a psychological version of the reputation models pioneered by biologist Robert Trivers (1971) and economist Robert Frank (1988). The authors, like Trivers and Frank, offer an implausible explanation of the fact that revenge is common even when there are no possible reputational effects. I sketch a more plausibl...
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We agree with the comments by van Hoorn (1) on our critique (2): testing causal hypotheses about human behavior is a challenge (1, 3). Making progress requires specifying alternative hypotheses and then testing these hypotheses using diverse and converging lines of evidence. We have defended the hypothesis that social norms, which culturally coevol...
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This article shows how agent-based models of social dynamics can be treated rigorously and analytically as finite Markov processes, and their long-run properties are then given by an expanded version of the ergodic theorem for Markov processes. A Markov process model of a simplified market economy shows the fruitfulness of this approach.
Article
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While Professor Pagano’s general argument is attractive and may be valid, the Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis that he employs is extremely implausible from a sociobiological perspective. It posits the evolution of massive social inefficiencies in hominin societies over a long period during which there was doubtless severe competition among ho...
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The rational choice model pioneered by economists is rapidly becoming the standard approach throughout the behavioral sciences. The model is attractive as it allows the mathematical formalization of an essential truth, namely that when people act, they are generally trying to accomplish something, and their efforts are more or
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The standard theories of cooperation in humans, which depend on repeated interaction and reputation effects among self-regarding agents, are inadequate. Strong reciprocity, a predisposition to participate in costly cooperation and the punishment, fosters cooperation where self-regarding behaviors fail. The effectiveness of socially coordinated puni...
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Lamba and Mace's critique (1) of our research (2–4) is based on incorrect claims about our experiments and several misunderstandings of the theory underpinning our efforts. Their findings are consistent with our previous work and lead to no unique conclusions. Lambda and Mace (1) incorrectly claimed that we “mostly” sampled from single communitie...
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This article presents evidence supporting strong reciprocity. It explains why, under conditions plausibly characteristic of the early stages of human evolution, a small fraction of strong reciprocators could invade a population of self-regarding types, and why strong reciprocity is an evolutionarily stable strategy. It uses the term 'self-regarding...
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We prove the stability of equilibrium in a completely decentralized Walrasian general equilibrium economy in which prices are fully controlled by economic agents, with production and trade occurring out of equilibrium.
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The behavioral sciences have distinct research foci, but they include four conflicting models of decision making. The four are the economic, the sociological, the biological, and the psychological. These four models are not only different, which is to be expected given their distinct explanatory goals, but incompatible. In fact all four are flawed,...
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Philosophical views about morality have traditionally been supported by abstract reasoning and introspection, with, at best, passing reference to actual human behavior. Behavioral ethics develops models of human morality based upon the fact that morality is an emergent property of the evolutionary dynamic that gave rise to our species. Propositions...
Chapter
In den vorangegangenen drei Kapiteln haben wir einen überblick über Entwicklungen gegeben, die das Primar-, Sekundar- und das tertiäre Bildungswesen in den letzten anderthalb Jahrhunderten genommen haben. Wir haben ein Bild gezeichnet, das in seinen historischen Dimensionen recht viele Parallelen zu unserer Analyse der Verknüpfung von Erziehungssys...
Article
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Behavioral economics has rejuvenated economic theory and deepened the bonds between economic theory and the other social sciences. Neoclassical economics does not depend on individual preferences being self-regarding. Moreover, in market contexts, laboratory experiments indicate that traditional theory works well. Behavioral economic findings thus...
Chapter
This chapter examines the role of social emotions such as guilt and shame in supporting human cooperation, and how these could have evolved. It first models the process by which an emotion such as shame may affect social behavior in a simple public goods game before discussing how shame and guilt along with internalized ethical norms foster coopera...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on the evolution of altruism in humans. Following William Hamilton, it uses the term “helping” to describe behaviors that confer benefits on others and reserves the term “altruism” for helping in situations where the helper would benefit in fitness or other material ways by withholding help. The discussion begins with an analys...
Chapter
This book examines the cultural, biological and other processes that explain how humans evolved into an exceptionally cooperative species. It advances two propositions, the first of which deals with proximate motivations for prosocial behavior and the second is concerned with the distant evolutionary origins and ongoing perpetuation of these cooper...
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This chapter examines socialization and the process by which social norms become internalized, how this capacity for internalization could have evolved, and why the norms internalized tend to be group-beneficial. It begins with a discussion of cultural transmission and how it overrides fitness by taking account of two facts. First, the phenotypic e...
Chapter
This chapter reviews the book's main findings about human cooperation, beginning with a discussion of its origins. It shows that humans became a cooperative species because the nature of our livelihoods made cooperation within a group highly beneficial to its members. Hence, they developed the cognitive, linguistic and other capacities to structure...
Chapter
This chapter examines the sociobiology of human cooperation. Given the tendency of people to copy the successful and the fact that natural selection favors the more fit, the chapter asks how our altruistic preferences overcame the cultural and biological evolutionary handicaps entailed by the reduced payoffs that they elicited. To answer this quest...
Book
Why do humans, uniquely among animals, cooperate in large numbers to advance projects for the common good? Contrary to the conventional wisdom in biology and economics, this generous and civic-minded behavior is widespread and cannot be explained simply by far-sighted self-interest or a desire to help close genealogical kin. This book shows that th...
Chapter
This chapter examines the notion that humans became cooperative because in our ancestral environments we interacted frequently with the same group of close kin, among whom tit-for-tat and other strategies consistent with reciprocal altruism were sufficient to support cooperative outcomes. To this end, the chapter reviews the available archaeologica...
Chapter
This chapter examines how group competition favored the coevolution of the distinctive institutions of the hunter-gatherer society along with a predisposition for altruistic behavior. It first considers how selective extinction can favor the evolution of an altruistic trait before discussing the notion of reproductive leveling, along with genetic d...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on the evolution of strong reciprocity. A predisposition to cooperate and a willingness to punish defectors is known as strong reciprocity, and it is the combination of the two that is essential to human cooperation. Punishment reduces the gain to free-riding, and may induce even entirely self-interested individuals to cooperat...
Chapter
This chapter examines the coevolution of two genetically transmitted individual traits, parochialism and altruism, each providing the conditions for the evolutionary success of the other, and both jointly explaining why warfare was so frequent and lethal among early humans. It first considers the tendency of parochial altruists to engage in combat...
Chapter
This chapter examines whether recent advances in the theory of repeated games, as exemplified by the so-called folk theorem and related models, address the shortcomings of the self-interest based models in explaining human cooperation. It first provides an overview of folk theorems and their account of evolutionary dynamics before discussing the fo...
Chapter
This chapter examines how social preferences contribute to human cooperation. It considers experimental and other evidence showing that even in one-shot interactions many individuals, most in some settings, willingly cooperate with strangers even at a cost to themselves. Moreover, they enthusiastically punish shirkers who seek to exploit the cooper...
Chapter
Full-text available
Why do humans, uniquely among animals, cooperate in large numbers to advance projects for the common good. Contrary to the conventional wisdom in biology and economics, this generous and civic-minded behavior is widespread and cannot be explained simply by far-sighted self-interest or a desire to help close genealogical kin. InA Cooperative Species...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The standard Walrasian general equilibrium model is a static description of market clearing equilibria. Attempts over more than a century to provide a decentralized market dynamic that implements market equilibrium have failed. The reason is that a system of decentralized markets is a complex dynamical system in which the major form of learning is...
Article
Full-text available
Human characteristics are the product of gene-culture coevolution, which is an evolutionary dynamic involving the interaction of genes and culture over long time periods. Gene-culture coevolution is a special case of niche construction. Gene-culture coevolution is responsible for human other-regarding preferences, a taste for fairness, the capacity...
Article
In macroeconomic theory, I suggest supporting agent-based models of decentralized market systems with sophisticated financial sectors, as well as theoretical research that provides the analytical foundation for the phenomena discovered through agent-based models. In rational choice and game theory, I suggest increasing support for laboratory and fi...
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This article shows that social norms are better explained as correlating devices for a correlated equilibrium of the underlying stage game, rather than Nash equilibria. Whereas the epistemological requirements for rational agents playing Nash equilibria are very stringent and usually implausible, the requirements for a correlated equilibrium amount...
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Moral judgments often affect scientific judgments in real-world contexts, but Knobe's examples in the target article do not capture this phenomenon.
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A central finding in interactive epistemology is that rational agents implement Nash equilibria when there is a commonality of knowledge in the form of common priors and common knowledge of key aspects of the strategic interaction. Epistemic game theory, however, fails to articulate the general conditions of knowledge sharing. This paper makes expl...
Article
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Because mutually beneficial cooperation may unravel unless most members of a group contribute, people often gang up on free-riders, punishing them when this is cost-effective in sustaining cooperation. In contrast, current models of the evolution of cooperation assume that punishment is uncoordinated and unconditional. These models have difficulty...
Article
Ken Binmore and Avner Shaked are highly respected economists, well-known for their analytical contributions and breadth of knowledge. Moreover, they have actively participated in experimental economics for many years. However, their critique of the current state of experimental economics in general, and of Ernst Fehr and Klaus Schmidt’s presentatio...
Article
Ken Binmore needs no introduction to readers of THE ECONOMIC JOURNAL. In RATIONAL DECISIONS, this mathematician turned economist turned philoso- pher combines brief introductions to Bayesian decision theory and game theory with a far-reaching and synthetic assessment of the limits of Bayesian decision theory and offer new directions in extending de...
Article
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This chapter reviews contemporary models of human behavior in various fields, including economics, biology, anthropology, sociology, and neuroscience. It shows that although the core theoretical constructs of the various behavioral disciplines currently include mutually contradictory principles, progress over the past couple of decades has generate...

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