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Social Preferences in Small‐Scale Societies
  • Alexander J. Field, Santa Clara University
Document Type
Book Review
Publication Date
University of Chicago Press
This volume reports on a cross‐cultural investigation of social preferences in 15 small‐scale, non‐Western societies. Participants from all 15 groups played the ultimatum game with members of their own culture; subjects from a subset also played dictator and voluntary contribution to public goods games. The bulk of the book (Chapters 4 through 14) consists of reports by the field workers (mostly anthropologists). Each chapter includes ethnographic information, a description of how members of the group make their living, details on the experimental protocols and results, and some discussion. Although none of the results are consistent with the predictions of the standard rational choice model (as has been true in earlier work), group average offers and rejection frequencies in these experiments display more variation than has been observed in experiments using university students from developed Westernized societies. The editors report that little of this variation can be accounted for by individual economic or demographic variables, such as gender, age, education, or wealth. On the other hand, group dummies account for quite a lot, and social preferences seem to be stronger in groups experiencing greater market integration or whose economic mode offers greater opportunities for gains from cooperative enterprise.

Copyright © 2005 University of Chicago Press. Reprinted with permission.

Citation Information
Field, Alexander J. 2005. “Social Preferences in Small‐Scale Societies.” Quarterly Review of Biology 80 (December): 453-459.