The Evolution of Fairness Norms

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Prof. Ken Binmore, ELSEMultidisciplinary Research Workshop 23 May 2012, 10.00-12.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room with Ken Binmore, ESRC Centre for Economic Learning and Social Evolution, University College London


Our lives are shaped by the choices we make, whether that choice is which job to take, who to vote for, or who to marry. The social sciences study why humans make the choices they do. Human choice, however, is often shaped by social interactions. And when one person’s choice depends on the choices of others, the analysis quickly become very complex. A specific technique has been developed to study choice in this situation: Game Theory.

Indeed, over the last two decades there has been an explosion in the number and breadth of applications of game theory to understanding social behavior. Just to name a few: interpersonal choice, collective choice, coalition formation, information diffusion, social learning, network interaction and formation of social networks, bargaining, social norms, and social justice. Besides using game theory, scholars from disciplines across the social and behavioral sciences have been nourishing game theory as an analytical framework with the knowledge and insights of their areas of expertise. In this back and forth process some fascinating conversations have begun across disciplines, thus creating a very vibrant and appealing growth edge.

This proliferation of game theory has not been without controversy. One specific critique of game theory is that its practitioners use Occam’s razor too liberally, cutting away factors that are essential in shaping human behavior. To address this critique, new research has adapted the standard game theory framework to bring in important insights on human behavior from across the behavioral sciences.

This workshop has two main objectives:

1) To convey the spirit of game theory and discuss some of its applications to understanding social processes.

2) To show some of the ways in which game theory has been nourished by insights on human behavior from across the behavioral sciences.

Organizers: ECO Academic Practice Group, Tomás Rodriguez Barraquer , Agustin Casas , Justin Valasek , Max Weber Fellows