Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Signaling and Human Behavior

Robin Hanson on signaling theory in economics (Overcoming Bias):
There are literally hundreds of papers out there showing how signaling can or does explain various details of human behavior. In fact, fifteen years ago my Ph.D. thesis advisor told me not to write such papers, because there were already so many of them that they weren’t very interesting.

Yet people keep complaining everytime I mention a signaling explanation of something, that I’m too free with such explanations. So I’m stuck between an academic discipline that considers such explanations too obvious to be worth publishing, and an audience that finds them too implausible to believe, even when backed by such publications. [emphasis added]

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