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Hardcover | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780262072526 | 416 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 35 illus.| June 2005
Paperback | $30.00 Text | £20.95 | ISBN: 9780262572378 | 416 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 35 illus.| August 2006
Ebook | $21.00 Text | ISBN: 9780262251822 | 416 pp. | 35 illus.| August 2006
About MIT Press Ebooks

Moral Sentiments and Material Interests

The Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life


Moral Sentiments and Material Interests presents an innovative synthesis of research in different disciplines to argue that cooperation stems not from the stereotypical selfish agent acting out of disguised self-interest but from the presence of "strong reciprocators" in a social group.

Presenting an overview of research in economics, anthropology, evolutionary and human biology, social psychology, and sociology, the book deals with both the theoretical foundations and the policy implications of this explanation for cooperation. Chapter authors in the remaining parts of the book discuss the behavioral ecology of cooperation in humans and nonhuman primates, modeling and testing strong reciprocity in economic scenarios, and reciprocity and social policy. The evidence for strong reciprocity in the book includes experiments using the famous Ultimatum Game (in which two players must agree on how to split a certain amount of money or they both get nothing).

About the Editors

Herbert Gintis is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts and External Faculty at the Santa Fe Insitute.

Samuel Bowles is Research Professor and Director of the Behavioral Sciences Program at the Santa Fe Institute and Professor of Economics at the University of Siena.

Robert Boyd is Professor of Anthropology at University of California at Los Angeles.

Ernst Fehr is Director of the Insitute for Empirical Research in Economics at the University of Zurich.


“Amos Tversky's research on preferences and beliefs has had a shattering and yet highly constructive influence on the development of economics. The vague complaints of psychologists and dissident economists about the excessive rationality assumptions of standard economics, going back over a century, had little impact. It required the careful accumulation of evidence, the clear sense that Tversky did not misunderstand what economists were assuming, and above all his formulation of useful alternative hypotheses to change dissatisfaction into a revolutionary change in perspective.”
Kenneth J. Arrow, Professor of Economics Emeritus, Stanford University, Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences (1972)
“This work synthesizes the elements of the burgeoning, transdiciplinary field of study on the evidence of cooperation in human behavior, economic and otherwise. The hypothesis of strong reciprocity—of willingness to both punish departures from norms, even at a cost, and to contribute, even in the absence of direct gain—is tested in the field and in experimental studies. The papers in this book, and the studies on which they are based, represent an important new direction for social research, one with important policy consequences.”
Kenneth J. Arrow, Professor of Economics Emeritus, Stanford University, Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences (1972)
“Where once human economy was viewed abstractly, as a mere reflection of market forces, there is increasing interest in how it derives from natural human tendencies. We do not come into this world as rational profit-maximizers, but as bonded, group-living primates. This volume sets the stage for new economic thinking that takes this thoroughly social heritage into account. With its attention to moral implications, it is the perfect book for the post-Enron era.”
Frans de Waal, author of Our Inner Ape