Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Current Biology

Publication Date

2007

Page Number

1704

Keywords

endowment effect, behavioral economics, law, property, behavioral biology, evolutionary biology, evolutionary analysis in law, prospect theory, economics

Disciplines

Behavioral Economics | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Law

Abstract

Human behavior is not always consistent with standard rational choice predictions. The much-investigated variety of apparent deviations from rational choice predictions provides a promising arena for the merger of economics and biology. Although little is known about the extent to which other species also exhibit these seemingly irrational patterns of human decision-making and choice behavior, similarities across species would suggest a common evolutionary root to the phenomena.

The present study investigated whether chimpanzees exhibit an endowment effect, a seemingly paradoxical behavior in which humans tend to value a good they have just come to possess more than they would have only a moment before. We show the first evidence that chimpanzees do exhibit an endowment effect, favoring items they just received more than items they prefer that could be acquired through exchange. Moreover, we demonstrate that - as predicted - the effect is far stronger for food than for less evolutionarily salient objects, perhaps due to historically greater risks associated with keeping a valuable item versus attempting to exchange it for another. These findings suggest that the larger set of seeming deviations from rational choice predictions may be common to humans and chimpanzees, and that the evaluation of these through a lens of evolutionary relevance may yield further insights in both humans and other species.

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