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Department of Economics pres.

Social, Behavioral & Experimental Economics (SBEE): Primate patience: from foraging to cooperation

Alexandra Rosati, University of Michigan

economics economics

Intertemporal choices involving tradeoffs between benefits and time costs are ubiquitous in both human and animal lives. Several proposals argue that nonhumans are stuck in the ‘now’, whereas future-orienting cognition allows humans to think ahead and make adaptive decisions. What is the ultimate function of high levels of patience, and why do such abilities emerge? I will argue that a suite of decision-making capacities including inter-temporal choice and future planning evolved in the context of foraging behaviors, and vary with ecological complexity across species. Then, I will examine how these capacities for self-control can be generalized from foraging contexts to solve new but evolutionarily-important problems, like cooking food. Finally, I will present work testing the hypothesis that low levels of self-control constrain cooperation in primates, and therefore may explain human-unique forms of ultra-sociality.

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