Biology and the Arguments of Utility
Why did evolution not give us a utility function that is oﬀspring alone? Why do we care intrinsically about other outcomes, such as food, and what determines the intensity of such preferences? A common view is that such other outcomes enhance ﬁtness and the intensity of our preference for a given outcome is proportional to its contribution to ﬁtness. We argue that this view is incomplete. Speciﬁcally, we show that in the presence of informational asymmetries, the evolutionarily most desirable preference for a given outcome is determined not only by the signiﬁcance of the outcome, but by the Agent’s degree of ignorance regarding its signiﬁcance. Our model also sheds light on the phenomena of peer eﬀects and prepared learning, whereby some peer attitudes are more influential than others.
Rayo, Luis and Robson, Arthur, "Biology and the Arguments of Utility" (2013). Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers. 2268.