Some economic consequences of human biology

Volland, Benjamin GND

It is largely undisputed within the social sciences that genes, which influence human motivation and behavior must have been subject to the forces of natural selection in the same manner as genes, which determine physical traits and characteristics. In contrast, much less agreement has been achieved on the question whether and if so how this information could be gainfully employed to explain human behavior in general, and facets of economic behavior in particular. One reason for this state of affairs is the lack of economic research confronting hypotheses derived from insights on human biology with real world data. Within the scope of this thesis it is, therefore, aimed to provide an empirical assessment of how innate human dispositions and the economic system interact to generate some important behavioral phenotypes and patterns. Its main focus is on the motivational foundations of preferences and their effects on economic outcomes. However, other aspects of this relationship are also considered. Chapter one introduces the research question and frames it with respect to the relevant literature. Chapter two investigates the implications of the human reproductive system for preference formation and inter-individual variation in preferences. Subject of the ensuing third chapter are the consequences of universally shared human dispositions for the (observed) temporal stability of consumption behavior. Chapter four examines the corollaries of preference dynamics to the derivation of policy implications from empirical research. Finally, chapter five takes a look at the detrimental consequences arising from human mal-adaptations to the current economic environment. Chapter six concludes. Despite emphasizing various aspects in different chapters, the connective element of this thesis is the interest in the way, insights into human biology can be utilized to understand human economic activity.


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Volland, Benjamin: Some economic consequences of human biology. 2013.

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