Social Justice Research

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 277–297 | Cite as

Non-human Primate Studies Inform the Foundations of Fair and Just Human Institutions

Article

Abstract

Experiments with human participants have inspired new theories to capture human social, economic, and justice preferences, and shed new light on the foundation of institutions that promote and support large-scale exchange. Another source of valuable data for informing this agenda derives from studies with non-human primates. Here, we argue that primate studies of social preferences provide behavioral evidence supporting the role of the brain as an evolved social record-keeping device. Our argument follows Dickhaut et al. (Accounting Horizons 24:221–255, 2010), who pointed to record-keeping as critical in enabling large-scale trade. Here, we note that record-keeping also underlies justice judgments in both personal exchange and large-scale trade. The reason is that evaluating whether an allocation is just requires tracking not only benefits that accrue locally, but also benefits for distant others. Further, if record-keeping is an evolved trait (as Dickhaut et al. in Accounting Horizons 24:221–255, 2010 suggest), then it seems reasonable to expect it to be evidenced not only in humans, but also in non-human primates. Indeed, we argue that evidence from non-human primate research supports the Dickhaut hypothesis, thus supporting the role of justice in the emergence of fair and efficient economic exchange.

keywords Non-human primate studies Social preferences Record keeping Experimental economics 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interdisciplinary Center for Economic ScienceGeorge Mason UniversityFairfax USA

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