The Evolutionary Explanation of What?
A Closer Look at Adaptationist Explanations of Risk Preferences
Keywords:risk preferences, prospect theory, evolutionary psychology, human behavioral ecology, cultural evolution
The paper examines evolutionary explanations of risk preferences. First, the paper argues that evolutionary psychology is ill-suited for explaining prospect theory risk preferences since the empirical evidence does not support the universality of the fourfold pattern of risk preferences postulated by prospect theory. Second, the paper argues that explaining prospect theory risk preferences by means of risk-sensitive foraging models is incomplete since this approach does not offer a rationale for the observed diversity in human decision making involving monetary gambles. Finally, the paper suggests adopting a wider perspective on evolutionary approaches to human behaviour that also takes into account the role of cultural processes in shaping risk preferences.