Evolutionary Origin of the Endowment Effect: Evidence from Hunter-Gatherers


The endowment effect, the tendency to value possessions more than non-possessions, is a well known departure from rational choice and has been replicated in numerous settings. We investigate the universality of the endowment effect, its evolutionary significance, and its dependence on environmental factors. We experimentally test for the endowment effect in an isolated and evolutionarily relevant population of hunter-gatherers, the Hadza Bushmen of Northern Tanzania. We find that Hadza living in isolated regions do not display the endowment effect, while Hadza living in a geographic region with increased exposure to modern society and markets do display the endowment effect.



C. L. Apicella, E. M. Azevedo, J.H. Fowler, and N. A. Christakis, “Evolutionary Origin of the Endowment Effect: Evidence from Hunter-Gatherers,” American Economic Review, 104(6): 1793-1805 (May 2014) DOI: 10.1257/aer.104.6.1793

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Evolutionary Origin Of The Endowment Effect Evidence From Hunter Gatherers