Behavioral Economics, Psychology, Decision Making
Please, not another bias! An evolutionary take on behavioural economics
Thank you for the invitation to speak today.
I accepted the invite because natural selection has shaped the human mind to take actions that have, in our past, tended increase reproductive success.
That statement isn’t as creepy as it sounds. I did not calculate the direct reproductive opportunity of this speaking engagement. Rather, our evolutionary past means that we are inclined to pursue proximate objectives that lead to the ultimate goal.
For example, we seek status – and what could be more status-enhancing than speaking here. And we engage in the costly signalling of our traits – such as intelligence – to the opposite sex, allies or rivals.
Another place where I signal is my blog, Evolving Economics. A copy of these slides and the text of what I plan to speak about today – which should approximate what I actually will speak about – will be posted onto Evolving Economics before the end of today’s talk. That text includes links to the studies I will refer to.
To explain why I engage in this costly signalling – conference speaking, blogging and the like – I will first take a step back and explain how the evolutionary approach to decision making relates to other approaches, starting with behavioural economics.
And I should say that I am going to refer to “behavioural economics” today, even though what I am going to talk about is more rightfully called “behavioural science”.
I once had an online discussion about this point with last year’s MSiX headlining speaker Rory Sutherland. I was in the behavioural science camp, but he said that the term behavioural economics was fantastic marketing and is effective in getting the attention of economists. Even though calling it behavioural economics is a slight to the psychological foundations of this work, we should live with it.