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Annu Rev Psychol. 2015 Jan 3;66:321-47. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010814-015310.

The evolutionary roots of human decision making.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06511; email: Laurie.Santos@yale.edu.

Abstract

Humans exhibit a suite of biases when making economic decisions. We review recent research on the origins of human decision making by examining whether similar choice biases are seen in nonhuman primates, our closest phylogenetic relatives. We propose that comparative studies can provide insight into four major questions about the nature of human choice biases that cannot be addressed by studies of our species alone. First, research with other primates can address the evolution of human choice biases and identify shared versus human-unique tendencies in decision making. Second, primate studies can constrain hypotheses about the psychological mechanisms underlying such biases. Third, comparisons of closely related species can identify when distinct mechanisms underlie related biases by examining evolutionary dissociations in choice strategies. Finally, comparative work can provide insight into the biological rationality of economically irrational preferences.

KEYWORDS:

bias; cognitive evolution; preference; primates; rationality

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