Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Psychosemantics of Free Riding: Dissecting the Architecture of a Moral Concept

In this paper, Delton, Cosmides, Guemo, Robertson and Tooby test whether the mind has an evolved mechanism that allows for the identification of free riders.  The hypothesis of an evolutionary sanctioned free rider detection mechanism is tested against three competing hypotheses: the return rate rule, which identifies free riders on the basis of their contributions regardless of extenuating circumstances such as illness or incompetence; the moral violator rule, which sees the category of free rider as continuous with other moral violations; and the arbitrary categorisation hypothesis, which argues for a post-hoc identification of free riders as part of the mind's general tendency to construct classificatory schemas on the basis of perceived differences.  The authors maintain, on the basis of experimental results, that the evidence best matches the supposition that the mind has an innate free rider detection mechanism. 

A discussion of how cultural context and socio-political triggers activate who gets classed as a free rider and who doesn't would have been appreciated (given the sensitivity and variability of the appellation), but the paper retains its value as an exposition on an important concept.     


Female orgasm varies with relationship type

Women are more likely to experience orgasm in a relationship than in a hookup by Armstrong, England, and Fogarty. The downside to this paper is that they do not try to separate different types of orgasm, just take it as it one phenomenon. Still, an interesting dataset. Here is the link:

Evolving neurone networks of optimal complexity

Evolving neurone networks to deal with prisoners dilemma and snowdrift games by McNally, Brown, and Jackson. This is a clever paper that provides one possible route to the social brain hypothesis. They show that if more processing power leads to an advantage in the game then it will emerge. This in itself would be fairly trivial, but they produce this result via agent level evolution of neurone-network-like processing mechanism. Here is the link:

Genetic diversity and economic development

Linking genetic diversity and economic development by Ashraf and Galor is a paper that illustrates perfectly what is promising as well as utterly wrong with the current economics attempt to link evolution and modern societies. The promising bit is that a paper that cites the Out of Africa hypothesis and uses genetic variation as a factor gets into AER, one of the leading economics journals. Sadly, however, the authors suggest a mechanism (section 2 on pages 10-11) that is naive to the extent that it annuls the otherwise impressive econometrics. Yet, their empirical finding is interesting. Here is the link: