The Evolutionary Explanation of What?

A Closer Look at Adaptationist Explanations of Risk Preferences

  • Bengt Autzen Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy
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.

Author Biography

Bengt Autzen, Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy

Bengt Autzen is a postdoctoral fellow at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy having received a PhD in philosophy from the London School of Economics (LSE). His research interests lie in the philosophy of biology, the philosophy of statistics and the philosophy of social sciences.

How to Cite
Autzen, B. (2018). The Evolutionary Explanation of What?. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 11(1), 31-49.