Robson's Home Page
photos and links
Economic Theory and Evolution
Department of Economics
E-mail: robson at sfu dot
pdf file chock-a-block with full detail
I have been persuaded for about 20 years by the idea that a strong
light can be shed on modern human economic behavior by considering its
biological and anthropological basis. I wanted to otherwise stick to
the usual theoretical methodology in carrying out this program.
Research on this topic
definitely wasn't short-run career optimizing, but it has
and still is, tremendous fun to do something new. It
is also encouraging that recently there has been an
increase in acceptance of this approach from
the discipline at large.
There is a vast amount of
work to be done in this vein, with the promise of generating powerful
insights into basic real phenomena. The following
are two public lectures on the evolution
Oxford, June 24, 2011
Evolutionary Foundations of Preferences" (with Larry Samuelson) in Handbook of Social Economics. This
is also the most formal of these sources, but we worked on the
Oxford, June 16, 2011
Also of interest might still be two recent workshops on
SFU, Vancouver, April 18-20, 2008
SFU, Vancouver, May 14-16, 2010
And here is the program for a conference at the
Becker Friedman Institute at the University
of Chicago. This link features pdf's and videos for
many of the talks-
Chicago, May 4-5, 2012
I am very grateful to the BFI for sponsoring this.
Finally, here are the slides for a mini-course on this topic that I
gave at New York University in February, 2013. An earlier version of
this course was given at the Toulouse School of Economics in January,
my papers on topics related to the biological basis of economics are
included in the list below, with other papers on topics such as game
theory. Many of the forthcoming papers and
papers are available as PDF files. Most of the later published
the Uniqueness of Endogenous Strategic Timing,'' Canadian Journal
of Economics 22 (1990), 917-921.
- "Stackelberg and Marshall," American Economic
Review 80 (1990), 69-82.
Regained," International Economic Review 31 (1990), 263-274.
Journal of Theoretical Biology
144 (1990), 379-396.
- "Subgame Perfect Equilibrium in Continuous Games
of Perfect Information: An Elementary Approach to Existence and to
Approximation by Discrete Games" (with Martin Hellwig,
Leininger and Phil Reny),
Journal of Economic Theory 52
Introduction to Evolutionary Game Theory: Secret Handshakes, Sucker
Punches and Efficiency", in Recent Developments in Game Theory,
ed. by J. Creedy, J. Borland and J. Eichberger, 1992, Edward Elgar: Aldershot, England
60 (1992), 837-857.
- "An 'Informationally Robust Equilibrium' for
Two-Person Nonzero Sum Games,'' Games and Economic Behavior 7
Evolution of Strategic Behavior", Canadian Journal of Economics
28 (1995), 17-41.
Existence of Subgame-Perfect Equilibrium
in Continuous Games with Almost Perfect Information: A Case for Public
Randomization,'' (with Chris Harris and Phil Reny),
Econometrica 63 (1995), 507-544.
Evolution of Attitudes to Risk: Lottery Tickets and Relative Wealth",
Games and Economic Behavior 14 (1996), 190-207.
Biological Basis for Expected and Non-Expected Utility", Journal
Theory 68 (1996), 397-424.
(with Fernando Vega-Redondo), Journal of Economic Theory 70
Growth-Maximizing Distribution of Income", (with Myrna Wooders), International Economic Review,
38 (1997), 511-526.
Adaptive Behavior and the Observability of
Gambles", Games and Economic Behavior 24 (1998), 97-108.
Induction, Public Randomization and Admissibility" (with Srihari Govindan), Journal
82 (1998), 451-457.
Business: Sexual and Asexual Reproduction in Variable Environments"
(with Carl Bergstrom and Jonathan Pritchard), Journal of
Theoretical Biology 197 (1999), 541-556.
Biological Basis of Economic Behavior,'' Journal of Economic
Literature, 29 (2001), 11-33.
- "Why Would
Nature Give Individuals Utility Functions?" Journal
of Political Economy, 109 (2001), 900-914.
and Human Nature," Journal of Economic Perspectives 16
(2002), 89-106. (Also "Comments" Journal of Economic
Perspectives 17 (2003), 207-212.)
of Humans: The Coevolution of Intelligence
and Longevity with Intergenerational Transfers,'' (with Hillard Kaplan) Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences of the USA 99 (2002), 10221-10226.
- "Existence of Subgame Perfect Equilibrium with Public
Randomization: A Short Proof,'' (with Phil Reny),
Economics Bulletin Vol. 3, No. 24 (2002), 1-8.
Evolution of Human Longevity and Intelligence in Hunter-Gatherer
Economies," (with Hillard Kaplan) American
93 (2003), 150-169.
- "The Evolution
of Intelligence and the Red Queen," Journal of Economic Theory 111
Group Selection and Cooperation'' (with Philippe Gregoire) International Game Theory Review
5 (2003), 229-248.
Capital and the Evolutionary Economics of the Human Lifespan''
(with Hillard Kaplan and Jane Lancaster) Population
29 Supplement (2003), 152-182.
- "A Short
Proof of the Harsanyi Purification
Theorem," (with Phil Reny and Hari Govindan), Games
(special issue in memory of Bob Rosenthal),
45 (2003), 369-374.
Equilibria: A Unification
of the Classical and Bayesian Views,'' (with Phil Reny) Games and Economic Behavior 48
Systems and the Red Queen", Economic Journal Symposium
"Markets as Complex Adaptive Systems," 115 (2005) F211-F224.
Economics of Hunter-Gatherer Societies and the Evolution of Human
Characteristics," (with Hillard Kaplan), Canadian Journal of Economics, 39
Do We Die? Economics, Biology, and Aging," (with Hillard Kaplan) American
Economic Review P&P 97
(2007), 492-495. (See also supplementary
Evolution of Intertemporal Preferences" (with Larry Samuelson), American Economic Review P&P
- "The Effect of Food Intake on Longevity" (with Tieman
Woutersen) Economics Bulletin 26 (2007), 1-11.
Evolution of Diet, Brain and Life History among Primates and Humans"
(with Hillard Kaplan, Steven Gangestad, Jane Lancaster, and
Michael Gurven) In Guts, Brains,
Food and the Social Life of
Early Hominids. Leiden:
University of Leiden Press, 2007, pp. 47-90.
The New Palgrave: A
Dictionary of Economics, Second Edition, Palgrave, Macmillan
Szentes) American Economic Review
98 (2008), 1178-1188. (See also online
Decision Making and the Evolutionary Roots of Institutions" (with
Richard McElreath, Robert Boyd, Gerd Gigerenzer, Andreas Glöckner,
Peter Hammerstein, Robert Kurzban, Stefan Magen, Peter J. Richerson,
and Jeffrey R. Stevens) In Better
Conscious? Decision Making, the Human Mind, and Implications For
Institutions Edited by Christoph Engel and Wolf Singer, MIT
Press, 2008, pp. 325-342.
- "We Age
Because We Grow"
(with Hillard Kaplan) Proceedings of the Royal Society: Series
B: Biological Sciences, 2009, 1837-1844 (with Mathematical Appendix).
Evolution of Time Preference with Aggregate Uncertainty" (with
Samuelson) American Economic Review, 99 (2009), 1925–53.
- "A Bioeconomic
View of the Neolithic Transition to Agriculture" Canadian Journal of Economics, 43
Evolutionary Foundations of Preferences" (with Larry Samuelson) In Handbook of Social Economics. Edited
Evolutionary Optimality of Decision and Experienced Utility" (with Larry Samuelson) Theoretical Economics 6 (2011),
(with Debraj Ray) Econometrica 80
- "The Economic Approach to Theory of Mind" (with Nikolaus Robalino) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal
Society: Series B (2012) 367 1599 2224-2233.
- "The Evolutionary Basis of Time
Intergenerational Transfers and Sex" (with Balázs
Szentes and Emil Iantchev) American
Economic Journal: Microeconomics 4(4) (2012) 172-201.
Preferences" (with Nikolaus Robalino) Biological Theory (2013) 8, 151-57.
Biological Theory of Public Discounting" (with Balázs
Economic Review, forthcoming.
Working Papers/Work in Progress
- " Understanding Biparental Sex Through the Absence of
Triparental Sex " (with Motty Perry and Phil
- "The Evolution of Theory of Mind: Theory and
Experiments" (with Erik Kimbrough and Nikolaus Robalino)
Arguments of Utility" (with