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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Game Theory and Morality

Moshe Hoffman , Erez Yoeli , and Carlos David Navarrete
The Evolution of Morality
Part of the series Evolutionary Psychology pp 289-316

Here is an excerpt:

The key result for evolutionary dynamic models is that, except under extreme conditions, behavior converges to Nash equilibria. This result rests on one simple, noncontroversial assumption shared by all evolutionary dynamics: Behaviors that are relatively successful will increase in frequency. Based on this logic, game theory models have been fruitfully applied in biological contexts to explain phenomena such as animal sex ratios (Fisher, 1958), territoriality (Smith & Price, 1973), cooperation (Trivers, 1971), sexual displays (Zahavi, 1975), and parent–offspring conflict (Trivers, 1974). More recently, evolutionary dynamic models have been applied in human contexts where conscious deliberation is believed to not play an important role, such as in the adoption of religious rituals (Sosis & Alcorta, 2003 ), in the expression and experience of emotion (Frank, 1988 ; Winter, 2014), and in the use of indirect speech (Pinker, Nowak, & Lee, 2008).

 Crucially for this chapter, because our behaviors are mediated by moral intuitions and ideologies, if our moral behaviors converge to Nash, so must the intuitions and ideologies that motivate them. The resulting intuitions and ideologies will bear the signature of their game theoretic origins, and this signature will lend clarity on the puzzling, counterintuitive, and otherwise hard-to-explain features of our moral intuitions, as exemplified by our motivating examples.

In order for game theory to be relevant to understanding our moral intuitions and ideologies, we need only the following simple assumption: Moral intuitions and ideologies that lead to higher payoffs become more frequent. This assumption can be met if moral intuitions that yield higher payoffs are held more tenaciously, are more likely to be imitated, or are genetically encoded. For example, if every time you transgress by commission you are punished, but every time you transgress by omission you are not, you will start to intuit that commission is worse than omission.

The book chapter is here.
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