Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Evolutionary Economics

Main content start
Hierarchical chart

As an outgrowth of my interest in the evolution of human life histories, I have developed a strong interest in what might be called "evolutionary economics." In a nutshell, this work focuses on making predictions about how biological entities living in realistic environments should form preferences and execute decisions. By far the dominant approach to studying human decision-making is neoclassical economic theory, grounded in rational choice and expected utility theory (EUT). The peculiar thing about EUT is that it is a normative, model, not based on the actual choice behavior of real people, as a positive model in science would be. Perhaps not surprisingly, actual people violate the expectations of EUT as often as not, which has led to an intellectual backlash to the neoclassical theory in the form of the field known as behavioral economics.

I suggest that a generalization that emerges from this work is that evolutionary reasoning makes sense of the puzzling findings of behavioral economics, which are typically presented as an haphazard collection of anomalies rather than a coherent theory. 

Representative Papers

Price, M.H. and J.H. Jones. (2020) Fitness-Maximizers Employ Pessimistic Probability Weighting in Decisions Under Risk. Evolutionary Human Sciences. 2:e28. (doi:10.1017/ehs.2020.28)

Clech, L., J.H. Jones, and M. Gibson. (2020) Inequality in the Household and Rural–Urban Migration in Ethiopian Farmers. Evolutionary Human Sciences. 2:e9. (doi:10.1017/ehs.2020.10)

Price, M.H. and J.H. Jones. Hierarchical Evolutionary Preferences Explain Discrepancies in Expected Utility Theory. bioRXiv: 081570.

Jones, J.H. and R.B. Bird. (2014) The Marginal Valuation of Fertility. Evolution and Human Behavior. 35(1): 65-71. (doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.10.002)

Jones, J.H., R.B. Bird, and D.W. Bird. (2013) To Kill a Kangaroo: Understanding the Decision to Pursue High-Risk/High-Gain Resources. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B. 280: 20131210. (doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.1210)