3 Altruistically Inctined?
closely with the type of behavior likely to be favored by the individual level view of natural selection. Consequently, when we say that an action is rational, we willalso be saying, in evolutionary terms, that predispositions toward it would have been favored by individual level selection. Con-versely, when we say that an action is irrational because it isaltruistic, we will be saying that predispositions toward it would have required selection above the individual level in order to become established in populations.9 Because rationality is so highly valued inWestern culture, we often find ourselves pulled in the direction of embracing its broader, more encompassing definition, one less likely to be inconsistent with observa-tion. This is a temptation thatmust be resisted if we wish to retain sci-entific aspirations. In many instances we may wish desperately to believe that altruistic behavior is rational in the stronger sense. But this cannot be so,because biologically altruistic behavior by definition damages the rela-tive fitness of the actor, whereas rational behavior, as defined here, efficiently advances our material well-being. If behaviorthat benefits oth-ers turns out to benefit us as well, it is not altruistic but has, by definition, become mutualistic.
Were Alchian and Wiiüams Rational?
There is every reason to conclude that thebeliefs held by Alchian and Williams about the game they were playing were rational. As far as we can tell they fully understood its rules and the payoffs to the different strategy profiles, andunderstood that the other understood this: the beliefs each held were common knowledge. The assumption of rationality as defined earlier implies that, if the payoffs had been accurately characterized, eachplayer should have defected at the outset and continued along the same path. This they did not do.
What did Flood and Dresher's two subjects think as they played this game? We have good evidence...
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