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The Tragedy of the Commons, by Garrett Hardin (1968)
This is not to suggest that the anthropological interpretation of theempirical results should be taken as uncontroversial. Binmore (, , , ) has argued for many years, based on a wide range of behavioral data,that when people play games with non-relatives they tend to learn toplay Nash equilibrium with respect to utility functions thatapproximately correspond to income functions. As he points out in , Henrich et al.'s data do not test this hypothesis for theirsmall-scale societies, because their subjects were not exposed to thetest games for the (quite long, in the case of the Ultimatum game)learning period that theoretical and computational models suggest arerequired for people to converge on NE. When people play unfamiliargames, they tend to model them by reference to games they are used toin everyday experience. In particular, they tend to play one-shotlaboratory games as though they were familiar repeated games,since one-shot games are rare in normal social life outside of specialinstitutional contexts. Many of the interpretive remarks made byHenrich et al. are consistent with this hypothesis concerningtheir subjects, though they nevertheless explicitly reject the hypothesisitself. What is controversial here—the issues of spin around‘orthodox' theory aside—is less about what theparticular subjects in this experiment were doing than about whattheir behavior should lead us to infer about human evolution.
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We have now seen the first level at which neuroeconomics applies gametheory. A second level involves seeking conditioning variables inneural activity that might impact people's choices of strategies whenthey play games. This has typically involved repeating protocols fromthe behavioral game theory literature with research subjects who arelying in fMRI scanners during play. and have argued forskepticism about the value of work of this kind, which involvesvarious uncomfortably large leaps of inference in associating theobserved behavior with specific imputed neural responses. It can alsobe questioned whether much generalizable new knowledge is gained tothe extent that such associations can be successfullyidentified.