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The evolution of preferences and competition: a rationalization of Veblen's theory of invidious comparisons

B. Eaton () and Mukesh Eswaran ()

Canadian Journal of Economics, 2003, vol. 36, issue 4, 832-859

Abstract: We examine how preferences evolve by natural selection in a competitive environment similar to that characterizing much of our evolutionary past. We find that the evolutionarily stable preferences in this context exhibit a concern not only for absolute payoffs but also for relative payoffs, and that this intensifies the degree of competition relative to what obtains when players consider only absolute payoffs. We argue that this has consequences for the equilibrium population size. We argue that the premise of this analysis is consistent with the available anthropological evidence, and that the prediction is broadly consistent with the findings of experimental game theory.

JEL-codes: C70 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2003
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