Overview and Synthesis

Joseph Henrich, Robert Boyd, Samuel Bowles, Colin F. Camerer, Ernst Fehr, Herbert Gintis and Richard McElreath

in Foundations of Human Sociality

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780199262052
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601637 | DOI:
 Overview and Synthesis

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A summary is given of the results obtained from all fifteen field sites of the cross‐cultural behavioural experiments project reported in the book and comparisons are made between them. Two lessons are drawn from the experimental results: first, there is no society in which experimental behaviour is even roughly consistent with the canonical model of purely self‐interested actors; second, there is much more variation between groups than has been previously reported, and this variation correlates with differences in patterns of interaction found in everyday life. The results are thought to bear on fundamental questions about human behaviour and society such as the nature of human motivations, and how these motivations are shaped by the societies in which people live, but the discussion is limited to the implications of the study for rational actor and similar models of human behaviour. The chapter is arranged in eight main sections which: (1) give an account of the cross‐cultural behavioural experiments project, describing the main economics experiments used – the Ultimatum Game (only this game was used at all experimental sites), the Public Goods Game, and the Dictator Game – and the locations and characteristics of the ethnographic studies involved (two each in Ecuador, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania; and one each in Bolivia, Chile, Indonesia, Kenya, Paraguay, Peru, and Zimbabwe); (2) present and analyse the experimental results; (3) attempt to explain differences in behaviour across groups; (4) attempt to explain individual differences in behaviour within groups; (5) discuss local group effects; (6) examine experimental behaviour in relation to everyday life; (7) discuss the research methods used and suggest ways that the between‐group behavioural differences found could have originated as products of patterns of social and economic interactions; and (8) draw conclusions.

Keywords: behavioural differences; Bolivia; Chile; cross‐cultural behaviour; cross‐cultural study; Dictator Game; economic interactions; economics experiments; Ecuador; everyday life; experimental behaviour; human behaviour; Indonesia; Kenya; local group effects; Mongolia; Papua New Guinea; Paraguay; patterns of interaction; Peru; Public Goods Game; self‐interest; social interactions; Tanzania; Ultimatum Game; variation between groups; Zimbabwe

Chapter.  16156 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Microeconomics

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