Skip to main content
Beyond foraging: behavioral science and the future of institutional economics
  • Alexander J. Field, Santa Clara University
Document Type
Publication Date
Cambridge University Press
Institutions affect economic outcomes, but variation in them cannot be directly linked to environmental factors such as geography, climate, or technological availabilities. Game theoretic approaches, based as they typically are on foraging only assumptions, do not provide an adequate foundation for understanding the intervening role of politics and ideology; nor does the view that culture and institutions are entirely socially constructed. Understanding what institutions are and how they influence behavior requires an approach that is in part biological, focusing on cognitive and behavioral adaptations for social interaction favored in the past by group selection. These adaptations, along with their effects on canalizing social learning, help to explain uniformities in political and social order, and are the bedrock upon which we build cultural and institutional variability.

Copyright © The JOIE Foundation 2007. Reprinted with permission.

The final paper can be found at -

Citation Information
Field, Alexander J. 2007. “Beyond foraging: behavioral science and the future of institutional economics.” Journal of Institutional Economics 3 (December): 265-291.