To understand how this affects our behaviour, some economists are starting to think more like evolutionary anthropologists.

Daniel Ariely of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of them. He suggests that modern society presents us with two distinct sets of behavioural rules. There are the social norms, which are “warm and fuzzy” and designed to foster long-term relationships, trust and cooperation. Then there is a set of market norms, which revolve around money and competition, and encourage individuals to put their own interests first.

Economic exchange has been going on throughout human history, so it is possible that our ancestors evolved an instinctive capacity for recognising the difference between situations suited to social or market norms, and that this could have developed well before the invention of money. Alternatively, we may learn the distinction.

Either way, we appear immediately and subconsciously to recognise the cues associated with the realm of market norms.

Click through and read the full article. Then buy and read Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational” Chapter 4 (many other good chapters in there as well of course)!

That is all.

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