Economic Experiments to Examine Fairness and Cooperation among the Ache Indians of Paraguay

Kim Hil and Michael Gurven

in Foundations of Human Sociality

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780199262052
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601637 | DOI:
 Economic Experiments to Examine Fairness and Cooperation among the Ache Indians of Paraguay

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It has been suggested that cooperative outcomes may be more ubiquitous in traditional hunter–gatherer societies, which are characterized by economic systems that more closely resemble those in which most human psychological mechanisms behind economic choice, fairness, and cooperation probably evolved. This idea is examined by playing the Ultimatum Game and the Public Goods Game with the Ache Indians, a tribal group of recently contacted hunter–gatherers in Paraguay, who are well known in the anthropological literature for their extensive food sharing, although they now spend most of their time in permanent reservation settlements: two settlements were involved in the study – the large Chupa Pou settlement and the smaller Arroyo Bandera settlement. The chapter examines how individual choices in the two games are affected by methodological permutations of the game and how the choices on one game are associated with choices in the other. Consideration is also given to how choices in the games are associated with other relevant individual characteristics – age, sex (whether male), whether from a large settlement, game played in public (rather than anonymously), times game played, amount of food production, and food sharing pattern (how much kept by family). The results provide various insights into concepts of fairness in human societies and into the social forces behind the observed sharing patterns.

Keywords: Ache Indians; age; choice; cooperation; economic choice; fairness; food production; food sharing; hunter–gatherers; Paraguay; Public Goods Game; reservation settlements; settlement size; sex; Ultimatum Game

Chapter.  11402 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Microeconomics

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