‘First, Kill All the Economists. . .’

“First, Kill All the Economists…”: The Insufficiency of Microeconomics and the Need for Evolutionary Psychology in the Study of Management

Satoshi Kanazawa

Manage. Decis. Econ. 27: 95–101 (2006)

Haselton and Buss’ (2000; Haselton, 2003) error management theory can tell us why. Their theory begins with an observation, made earlier by others (Yamagishi et al., 1999), that decision-making under uncertainty often results in erroneous inferences, but some errors are more costly in their consequences than others. Natural and sexual selection should then favor the evolution of inference systems that minimize the total cost of errors, rather than their total number. For instance, if a man must infer the sexual interest of a woman whom he encounters, he can make two types of errors: He can infer that she is sexually interested when she is not (false positive or Type I error), or he can infer that she is not sexually interested when she is (false negative or Type II error). What are the consequences of each type of errors?

The consequence of a Type I error, thinking that she is interested when she is not, is that he would be turned down, maybe laughed at, possibly slapped in the face. The consequence of a Type II error, thinking that she is not interested when she is, is a missed opportunity for copulation and to increase his reproductive success. The latter cost is far greater than the former. Thus men should be selected to possess a cognitive bias which leads them constantly to overinfer women’s sexual interest.

Haselton and Buss’ error management theory not only explains previously-known phenomena, such as a laboratory experiment demonstrating that men, both as participants and observers, overinfer women’s sexual interest than women do (Abbey, 1982), or the Safeway fiasco, but also leads to two novel predictions. First, women should underinfer men’s romantic commitment to them, because the cost of a Type I error (thinking that a man is romantically committed to her when he is not, getting pregnant by him, then having him desert, and having to raise the child alone) is far greater than the cost of a Type II error (thinking that he is not romantically committed to her when he is, and missing an opportunity to form a committed romantic relationship with him). Second, men’s tendency to overinfer women’s sexual interest should not apply to their sisters, because men need to perceive their sisters’ sexual interest in men accurately, so that they can protect the sisters in case they encounter unwelcome sexual advances from men.


8 comments on “‘First, Kill All the Economists. . .’

  1. Luke Lea says:

    I agree with the sentiment, agree that evolutionary psychology should be brought into the analysis (along with human biodiversity and bio-cultural interactions of the the sort hbd* chick likes to talk about). However my main criticism is the baleful influence of Paul Samuelson upon the profession. The mathematicalization has not only attracted a lot of second and third rate mathematicians into the field — among whom I do not include the game theorists incidentally, with the result that the discipline is now in a high state of decadence. Thus I agree with Keynes, Friedman, Marshall, Leontief, and a number of other first-rate economists that the discipline should return to ordinary language (with a smattering of plane geometry for purely illustrative and heuristic purposes). I also think economics and political science should be re-united. Is there a single important economic issue which is not at the same time a political one. The educated layman ought to be able to comprehend the leading contributions to the subject in their original form. If the writer can’t say it in plain words he probably doesn’t know what he is talking about — either that or it wasn’t worth saying in the first place. Just my opinion.

  2. Luke Lea says:

    P.S. There are also way to many economists. We need better teachers and fewer full-time researchers. A good teacher can do research in his spare time. Unfortunately the sociological barriers to such reform are formidable.

  3. 猛虎 says:

    I agree with you; this is why some economists in the profession made ad hoc arguments. I also think that IQ should be seriously taken into account by economists, but since the publication of The Bell Curve, I have seen no improvement of that. They usually omit this variable in their analyses, even though there are a some exceptions (for instance, Garett Jones and Bryan Caplan).

  4. Luke Lea says:

    Right, human capital is a function of IQ and education, not education alone.

  5. Luke Lea says:

    Incidentally, I’m on a China kick. Are you Chinese by chance?

  6. 猛虎 says:

    Yeah. First, I had the idea to blog on IQ and race without revealing part of my identity. But then, some came here just to insult me (they were banned). So I was thinking to blog with my name, not my initials (M.H.) – they wouldn’t dare to call me “neo nazi”. That’s why I have changed my pseudo.

    Anyway, don’t be fooled. Most chinese (or asians in general) seem to be anti-racists. Particularly when they come to Europe/America. They seem to be the ones who are most easily to be brainwashed. My guess is this has something to do with their low self-esteem.

    • Luke Lea says:

      I’ve been reading Xujun Eberlein’s blog. She talks about these issues. Er Tai Gau has a beautiful memoir out about his experience in labor camps and later during the CR. Unlike Zhang Xianliang he elected to leave China. He now lives in Las Vegas. I cannot help think he must feel like a fish out of water. I’ve gone through a couple of hundred books in the last 9 months or so. One of my impressions is that Chinese men are much more “in their element” in China, especially those who are verbally gifted, of which their are many. There is probably more good writing coming out of China today (last 30 years) than any other part of the world though you would never know it living in the US, where the stereotype is of science and math nerds. You are familiar with Sailer’s links to the “angry Asian” phenomenon I suppose? I wonder how all those ‘naked officials’ in China who are moving to the US with their ill-gotten gains will fare?

  7. 猛虎 says:

    My mother told me that chinese are probably used to hypocrisy, and to lie, especially chinese women; she called them “money money”, those who love you just for your money. Chinese are known to be ultra-capitalists. The assumption that they are in their element in China is probably true, I think. Chinese, I was told, fear the opinions of others. They tend to show a good self image when they think otherwise; for instance, if you do not leave a tip to the guy (bell-hop) who helped with your luggage, he’s becoming very upset. Instead, they give you a smile. In reality, he wants you to give a lot of your money. When I was young, I was fooled many times by the kind words of some persons, but my mother told me everything. This was hard to believe.

    Again, anecdote is not data, but I would be surprised if what I have just said turns out to be wrong.

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