Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1008034
 
 

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On the Evolutionary Origin of Prospect Theory Preferences


Rose McDermott


University of California, Santa Barbara - Department of Political Science

James H. Fowler


UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences; UC San Diego School of Medicine

Oleg Smirnov


State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science


Journal of Politics, Vol. 70, No. 2, pp. 335-350, April 2008

Abstract:     
Prospect theory scholars have identified important human decision-making biases, but they have been conspicuously silent on the question of the origin of these biases. Here we create a model that shows preferences consistent with prospect theory may have an origin in evolutionary psychology. Specifically, we derive a model from risk-sensitive optimal foraging theory to generate an explanation for the origin and function of context-dependent risk aversion and risk seeking behavior. Although this model suggests that human cognitive architecture evolved to solve particular adaptive problems related to finding sufficient food resources to survive, we argue that this same architecture persists and is utilized in other survival-related decisions that are critical to understanding political outcomes. In particular, we identify important departures from standard results when we incorporate prospect theory into theories of spatial voting and legislator behavior, international bargaining and conflict, and economic development and reform.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 33

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Date posted: August 20, 2007 ; Last revised: August 19, 2008

Suggested Citation

McDermott, Rose and Fowler, James H. and Smirnov, Oleg, On the Evolutionary Origin of Prospect Theory Preferences. Journal of Politics, Vol. 70, No. 2, pp. 335-350, April 2008. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1008034

Contact Information

Rose McDermott (Contact Author)
University of California, Santa Barbara - Department of Political Science ( email )
Dept. of Political Science
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9420
United States
805-893-6160 (Phone)
James H. Fowler
UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences ( email )
9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States
HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu
UC San Diego School of Medicine ( email )
9500 Gilman Drive
MC 0507
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States
HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu
Oleg Smirnov
State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science ( email )
Stony Brook, 11794-4392
United States
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