February 28, 2011
More "evolutionary" explanations based on studies of American college students
This time the ridiculous speculation is delivered from Eric Johnson, a Columbia University business psychologist, on seemingly irrational loss aversion and its role in slowing the recovery of the housing market, via David Kestenbaum of NPR. Johnson thinks that the risk of "leopards in trees" in days past conditions this behavior among American homeowners. The problem is that, like the recent study of tears and sexual desire, and all kinds of other crazy theories, the research subjects were all American college students! If there were some comparable data on loss aversion from societies around the world, especially, in this case, some relatively egalitarian ones, I might begin to entertain a role for some evolutionary adaptation. Otherwise, I'm going to assume that the cultural logic of capitalism is the operative framework here.