I’ve been thinking about rationality lately. What is rationality? Why do people behave rationally in some circumstances but not others? When is it rational to cooperate? When and why do people cooperate with one another? These, of course, are questions at the center of a very active and prolific research effort today that cuts across economics, evolution, anthropology, psychology, and even archaeology. But that’s not directly what I want to talk about; I am puzzled by the citation differences between two authors who published useful frameworks for thinking about some of these things.
In 1980 economic historian Peter Temin published a paper called “Modes of Behavior” (Temin 1980). He identified three of these modes: instrumental behavior; customary behavior; and command behavior. He then defined three institutional structures: hierarchy; market; and community. Temin presented a 3 x 3 matrix to show that some combinations are stable (e.g., customary behavior in community settings; or instrumental behavior in markets), and other combinations produce pressures for institutional change (e.g., command behavior in markets favors institutional change from markets to hierarchy). I have found this a useful way to think about markets, rationality (“instrumental” behavior), community, and the like.
Ten years later, anthropologist Alan Fiske published a book and an article on “elementary forms of sociality” (Fiske 1991, 1992). He now calls this realm “relational models theory” (see his website, http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/faculty/fiske/). Fiske identifies four types of sociality: communal sharing, authority ranking, equality matching, and market pricing. He argues that all human social interactions can be analyzed in terms of these four elementary models. This is also a useful way to think about human behavior, rationality, etc.
To me, these two schemes are quite similar. Fiske’s is more nuanced in terms of cross-cultural variation in behavior, while Temin’s has a stronger economic and institutional emphasis, but both serve to put rational behavior in its place. That is, some behavior is based on rational calculation but other behavior is not; and some settings encourage or require rational behavior, while other settings do not. The next time you hear a simplistic economic argument about analyzing all behavior as rationally motivated, or a simplistic culturalist argument about the worthlessness of rational choice models, take a look at Temin and/or Fiske.
Now for the strange citation patterns. According to Google Scholar, Fiske’s book has been cited 581 times and his article 726 times. But Temin’s paper has been cited only 7 times (twice by Temin himself in his papers on the Roman economy). What’s going on here? The two schemes are parallel, and one would think that scholars citing one would cite the other. But it seems that disciplinary citation patterns have prevented this. Most economists, particularly in 1980, probably did not want to hear Temin’s argument. They were wedded to the narrow rationality model, and he just complicated things with non-rational behavior and institutions. Fiske’s work, on the other hand, was picked up by cognitive psychology and psychological anthropology, and there is now a substantial body of work that has grown out of his original insight (see his website). Writers on rationality and cooperation today typically cite Fiske but not Temin (Bowles 1998; Henrich and al. 2005).
So what are the lessons here? For one thing, it matters where you publish a paper. Also, disciplines differ in their citation patterns. With Google scholar today, though, it is harder to justify limiting one’s citations to a narrow realm. So, WHY AREN’T ARCHAEOLOGISTS CITING THESE PAPERS? Have we managed to figure out ancient rationality, cooperation and such on our own, so that we don’t need to cite works like this? (sarcastic remark deleted here). I don’t think so.
Fiske, Alan P.
1991 Structures of Social Life: The Four Elementary Forms of Human Relations: Communal Sharing, Authority Ranking, Equality Matching, Market Pricing. The Free Press, New York.
1992 The Four Elementary Forms of Sociality: Framework for a Unified Theory of Social Relations. Psychological Review 99:689-723.
1980 Modes of Behavior. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 1:175-195.
1998 Endogenous Preferences: The Cultural Consequences of Markets and Other Economic Institutions. Journal of Economic Literature 36:75-111.
Henrich, Joseph and et al.
2005 "Economic Man" in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small-Scale Societies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28:795-855.