Biology and the Arguments of Utility

31 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2013

See all articles by Luis Rayo

Luis Rayo

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Arthur J. Robson

Simon Fraser University (SFU) - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 22, 2013

Abstract

Why did evolution not give us a utility function that is offspring alone? Why do we care intrinsically about other outcomes, such as food, and what determines the intensity of such preferences? A common view is that such other outcomes enhance fitness and the intensity of our preference for a given outcome is proportional to its contribution to fitness. We argue that this view is incomplete. Specifically, we show that in the presence of informational asymmetries, the evolutionarily most desirable preference for a given outcome is determined not only by the significance of the outcome, but by the Agent's degree of ignorance regarding its significance. Our model also sheds light on the phenomena of peer effects and prepared learning, whereby some peer attitudes are more influential than others.

Keywords: Utility, Biological evolution

JEL Classification: D01, D80

Suggested Citation

Rayo, Luis and Robson, Arthur J., Biology and the Arguments of Utility (April 22, 2013). Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No. 1893, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2254895 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2254895

Luis Rayo

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Arthur J. Robson (Contact Author)

Simon Fraser University (SFU) - Department of Economics ( email )

8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
Canada

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