This research explores the origins of loss aversion and the variation in its prevalence across regions, nations and ethnic group. It advances the hypothesis and establishes empirically that the evolution of loss aversion in the course of human history can be traced to the adaptation of humans to the asymmetric effects of climatic shocks on reproductive success during the epoch in which subsistence consumption was a binding constraint. Exploiting regional variations in the vulnerability to climatic shocks and their exogenous changes in the course of the Columbian Exchange, the research establishes that consistent with the predictions of the theory, individuals and ethnic groups that are originated in regions marked by greater climatic volatility have higher predisposition towards loss-neutrality, while descendants of regions in which climatic conditions tended to be spatially correlated, and thus shocks were aggregate in nature, are characterized by greater intensity of loss aversion.
This research explores ecological determinants of kinship intensity across the Globe. It advances the hypothesis and establishes empirically that the evolution of kinship networks and cultural norms related to them is shaped by the ecological variety of the local environment. Exploiting regional variations in the variety of flora, fauna, and climate, the research suggests that consistent with the predictions of the theory, ethnic groups that originated in regions marked by a greater ecological variety have looser kinship networks and weaker kinship ties. Moreover, it establishes that the modern descendants of ethnic groups that used to reside in more ecologically diverse places tend to exhibit psychological and social traits that are associated with tighter kinship.
``Innovation, WEIRD Psychology and the Spread of the Church'' with Jonathan Schultz, Joe Henrich, and Max Posch (Slides)
We test the hypothesis that the medieval Catholic Church’s marriage regulations – by dissolving existing clan-based kinship structures and creating far-reaching interconnected social networks – positively impact innovation. We show that regions that were exposed longer to the medieval Church have a population with more diverse social networks (as measured by the percentage of geographically distant Facebook friends) and also exhibit a higher number of patents per person. To get closer towards causal estimates, we implement a regression discontinuity design that exploits that the area of the Carolingian empire historically saw stricter marriage regulations and enforcement thereof. We consistently show that within contemporary countries there is a discontinuity along the border of the empire: just within the historical empire social networks are more diverse and the number of filled patents is higher compared to regions just outside the empire. Taken together our research suggests that the Church’s marriage regulations impact innovation up to today via its lasting impact on social networks.
“A Theory of Specialization, Exchange, and Innovation in Human Groups” with Peter Park and Joe Henrich
To study how key aspects of cumulative cultural evolution interact, we model the coevolution of occupational specialization, exchange, and innovation. This allows for the study of which group conditions favor the innovation of occupational diversity in the long run. For example, our model predicts that human groups will innovate more occupational specializations in the long run when the population size is large, when there is high complementarity of specializations in the environment, and when egalitarian norms enforce equal sharing. Moreover, our model predicts that human groups that have less occupational diversity, and those that can trade more efficiently with other groups, will tend to export a larger proportion of their produced goods. Existing evidence from small-scale societies provides preliminary corroboration for the model's predictions. Contemporary human societies' propensity for complex specialization and trade may thus not be a modern outlier, but an adaptation rooted in our ancestral past.
This research explores the determinants of human capacity for adaptation and the variation in its prevalence across regions and linguistic groups. It advances the hypothesis and establishes empirically that the evolution of the capacity for adaptation in the course of human history can be traced to the response of humans to the changes in the environment that generated a need for adjustment via the process of cultural evolution. Exploiting variations in the environmental changes that occurred in the course of historic migrations or were caused by the introduction of new crops during the Columbian Exchange, the research suggests that consistent with the predictions of the theory, individuals whose ancestors were subjected to a greater accumulated environmental changes are characterized by a higher propensity towards adaptation.
This research explores the origins of labour-leisure preference and the variation in its prevalence across regions and nations. It advances the hypothesis and establishes empirically that the evolution of predisposition towards labour and leisure in the course of human history can be traced to the adaptation of humans to the modes of production, characterized by the different return to effort in the long-run. Exploiting regional variations in the potential suitability for hunting and agriculture and their exogenous changes in the course of the Columbian Exchange, the research establishes that consistent with the predictions of the theory, individuals that are originated in regions marked by greater suitability for hunting have higher predisposition towards leisure, while descendants of regions in which agriculture was more productive are characterized by greater predisposition towards labour.
Work in Progress
``The Long-Run Drift and Selection of Cultural Traits: Theory and Evidence from Bantu Expansion'' with Alex Yarkin (draft coming soon)
``Gathering and Female Labour Force Participation: 4000 Years of Cultural Persistence'' (draft coming soon)