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About this book

All individuals who operate in the business sphere, whether as consumers, employers, employees, entrepreneurs, or financial traders to name a few constituents, share a common biological heritage and are defined by a universal human nature. As such, it is surprising that so few business scholars have incorporated biological and evolutionary-informed theories within their conceptual toolboxes. This edited book addresses this lacuna by culling chapters at the intersection of the evolutionary behavioral sciences and specific business contexts including in marketing, consumer behavior, advertising, innovation and creativity, intertemporal choice, negotiations, competition and cooperation in organizational settings, sex differences in workplace patterns, executive leadership, business ethics, store design, behavioral decision making, and electronic communication. To reword the famous aphorism of T. G. Dobzhansky, nothing in business makes sense except in the light of evolution.

Table of Contents


The Missing Link: The Biological Roots of the Business Sciences

Despite a growing infusion of the evolutionary behavioral sciences in general, and evolutionary psychology in particular, across a wide range of disciplines, the business sciences have been slow in recognizing the relevance and explanatory power afforded by this consilient meta-framework. Humans possess minds and bodies that have been forged by a long evolutionary history. Hence, to fully comprehend all of the human cognitions, emotions, preferences, choices, and behaviors that shape marketplace realities, be it those of consumers, employees, or employers, business scholars must incorporate biology and evolutionary theory within their theoretical toolkits. Scientists typically operate at the proximate realm, namely they seek to explain the mechanistic details of phenomena whereas ultimate explanations tackle the Darwinian forces that would have led to their evolution. Both levels of analyses are needed when investigating biological organisms including Homo consumericus and Homo corporaticus.
Gad Saad

Fundamental Motives and Business Decisions

You walk into a crowded negotiation room. Who do you notice? Who do you later remember? Do you try to fit in, or attempt to stand out from others? Do you accept the first reasonable offer, or do you balk at that offer? The answers likely depend critically on your current motivational state. Emerging evidence shows that a person’s behavior differs—sometimes dramatically—depending on whether that person is concerned with personal safety, romance, status-seeking, affiliation, or is motivated to attain some other evolutionary important goal. A growing body of research suggests that certain motivational states are considered “fundamental” in a biological sense because of their implications for evolutionary fitness. In this chapter, we overview the fundamental motives framework, highlighting its applications for business decision-making in marketing, management, entrepreneurship, and finance. We then review recent research that has used this approach to study specific business-relevant topics such as risky financial decision-making, negotiation, advertising, and innovation. Bridging evolutionary biology and business, the fundamental motives framework not only provides novel insights into workplace decisions, but also holds promise as a powerful approach for understanding how behavior in business contexts connects to other aspects of human and animal behavior.
Vladas Griskevicius, Joshua M. Ackerman, Bram Van den Bergh, Yexin Jessica Li

Intrasexual Competition Within Organizations

Intrasexual competition refers to rivalry with same-sex others that is, ultimately, driven by the motive to obtain and maintain access to mates. In the present chapter we provide evidence that intrasexual competition also plays an important role in workers’ behaviours, emotions and preferences in the relationship with other workers, and, as a result, may have far reaching consequences for organizations. More specifically, we discuss the types of intrasexual competition that exist, the way these types of intrasexual competition translate into employees’ emotions and behaviours, and the extent to which men and women adopt different intrasexual competitive strategies. Problems in the workplace may occur because intrasexual competition has taken on a dynamic of its own, and influences behaviours and preferences of employees even when this may be maladaptive for the individual or the organization.
Abraham P. Buunk, Thomas V. Pollet, Pieternel Dijkstra, Karlijn Massar

Evolutionary Psychology and Sex Differences in Workplace Patterns

Differences in workplace outcomes – such as the “glass ceiling”, the “gender gap in compensation”, and “occupational segregation” – are often attributed primarily to social forces. However, biological sex differences with roots in our evolutionary history and mediated by sex hormones also play an important role.
The sexes differ, on average, along a number of temperamental and cognitive dimensions. Males are higher in competitiveness, dominance-seeking, and risk-taking, while females are higher in nurturance. Males have an advantage in mechanical ability and on some spatial and mathematical tasks, while females outperform males on other spatial and computational tasks, as well as on many verbal tasks. Females tend to be more “person-oriented” and males more “thing-oriented”.
Talents and tastes have major workplace effects, as they influence how high in organizations people progress, how much money they make, and what jobs they hold. Men are more likely to subordinate other things – often including families – to maintain a single-minded focus on success and to take the risks necessary to become top executives. Men earn more money than women because, among other reasons, they tend to work more hours, occupy riskier jobs, and work in less-pleasant environments. Many jobs continue to be highly segregated by sex not just because of cognitive and physical sex differences, but probably even more strongly because of differences in occupational interests.
Kingsley R. Browne

The Adaptationist Theory of Cooperation in Groups: Evolutionary Predictions for Organizational Cooperation

Managers could more effectively promote cooperation within their organizations if they had greater understanding of how evolution designed people to cooperate. Here we present a theory of group cooperation – the Adaptationist Theory of Cooperation in Groups (ATCG) – that is primarily an effort to pull together the scattered findings of a large number of evolution-minded researchers, and to integrate these findings into a single coherent theory. We present ATCG in three main sections: first, we discuss the basic premise that group cooperation evolved because it allowed individuals to acquire personal fitness benefits from acting in synergy with others; second, we examine the cooperative strategy that most often prevails in successful groups, “reciprocal altruism”, and the free rider problem that constantly threatens it; and third, we explore how cooperative behavior is affected by differences (a) among individuals, (b) between the sexes, and (c) among different kinds of resources that a group may share. Throughout all of these sections, we suggest ways in which ATCG’s predictions could be usefully applied in real organizations. We conclude that while ATCG is consistent in some regards with existing theories from organizational behaviour, its individual-level adaptationist perspective allows it to make a variety of novel predictions.
Michael E. Price, Dominic D. P. Johnson

Caveman Executive Leadership: Evolved Leadership Preferences and Biological Sex

There is increasing recognition that human behavior in general, and business behavior in particular, is subject to social and biological effects. This research investigates the well-known but unsatisfactorily explained advantage that males have over females in obtaining executive leadership. We argue that environmental-cultural explanations are incomplete and propose an explanation that adds to the emerging evidence that behavior is subject to evolutionary effects. More specifically, we take the perspective of evolutionary psychology in this research. The explanation presented here is grounded in the evolutionary theory of natural selection such that a psychological adaptation adaptation for a preference for male leaders evolved to promote individual survivability in the violent ancestral history of humans. We present convergent interdisciplinary findings as well as supporting evidence from three studies with distinct research designs, domains, and perspectives of analysis to strengthen the validity of our argument. In all, this research offers a more complete theoretical explanation for male predominance in executive leadership and provides an additional theoretical approach to the investigation of modern biases that have been costly to the business community.
Gregg R. Murray, Susan M. Murray

Leadership in Organizations: An Evolutionary Perspective

In this chapter we discuss the potential of evolution to serve as a framework for unifying our understanding of leadership. From this perspective we consider the ultimate origins and functions of leadership, the role of co-evolution, and methods for testing evolution-based leadership hypotheses. To begin, we examine evolutionarily stable situation dynamics in the environment (e.g., intergroup conflict) that may have selected for (1) leadership behavior as well as (2) corresponding human traits intended to signal potential leadership ability and use this argument to support the notion of context-specific “cognitive leadership prototypes”. Particular attention is also given to the role of the follower and the specific pressures encouraging “followership investment”. In addition, co-evolution logic is used to examine the intricate relationship between the environment, human culture, and the emergence of certain leadership styles. Next, we discuss five methods for testing an evolution-based hypothesis of leadership and followership. Finally, we highlight practical implications which include appreciating the role of the follower, the impact of social constructs on modern leadership, the benefits of distributed leadership, and the importance of feminine leadership styles. Also, for consideration throughout the chapter, organizational examples are provided such as the homogenization of corporate culture and the current role of monarchies in Western society.
Brian R. Spisak, Nigel Nicholson, Mark van Vugt

Hardwired to Monitor: An Empirical Investigation of Agency-Type Social Contracts in Business Organizations

This chapter, grounded in empirical analysis, supports the position adopted by evolutionary psychologists that the human brain is hardwired to solve adaptive problems involving social exchange relationships. First, the evolutionary psychology hypothesis regarding social exchange is presented and explained in terms of its relevance to business. It is argued that the presence of cheater-detection/social-contract neural algorithms is ubiquitous among all members of a human population regardless of formal business training. In Study 1, I test the hypothesis on a sample of 300 business practitioners and students. Additionally, this study examines whether human brain circuits are structured to recognize agency-type arrangements in firms. In a second experiment, the effect of organizational work experience was tested to discover whether there exist moderating factors on the activation of cheater-detection circuits in a business context. It is posited that although corporate agents’ minds are biologically evolved to identify violators in social contract situations, the neural circuits responsible for detecting these breaches are influenced by organizational components including, organizational culture, that affect individuals’ perceptions of the terms of the exchange. Implications for business practitioners and researchers are offered.
David M. Wasieleski

The Role for Signaling Theory and Receiver Psychology in Marketing

Within marketing contexts, messages are effective when consumers find them both believable and relevant. An understanding of signaling theory and signal design features, derived from the study of animal and human behavioral ecology, can help marketers overcome the first challenge of crafting believable signals. Effective signals must fundamentally overcome the skepticism of receivers and generally accomplish this by linkage, either through identity or costliness, to the underlying quality being signaled. An understanding of receiver psychology, which involves appeals based on innate preferences that derive from shared human evolutionary history, can help marketers overcome the second challenge of rendering signals attractive and meaningful to consumers. Sensory bias, sexual stimuli, neoteny, and status all offer ripe opportunities for marketers to appeal to the innate preferences of consumers broadly or to specific targeted demographics. The following chapter provides an overview of signaling theory and receiver psychology as grounded in the evolutionary disciplines, with examples and applications that extend to the business world.
Bria Dunham

Cue Management: Using Fitness Cues to Enhance Advertising Effectiveness

Current thinking on advertising processing highly parallels contemporary psychological theory and research revealing that there are two distinct brain systems at work in human information processing and decision making: System 1 (S1, evolutionarily old, unconscious/preconscious, automatic, fast, and intuitive) and System 2 (S2, evolutionarily recent, conscious, controlled, slow, and reflective). Indeed, state-of-the-art models of advertising processing equally distinguish two different persuasive routes: one in which the consumer focuses on product/brand attribute information and in which he/she engages in elaborated information processing (S2), and one in which she/he processes the ad only superficially in terms of a handful of meaningful “cues” (S1). Regarding S2 advertising processing, means-end-chain theory offers a sound theoretical framework. However, regarding S1 advertising processing the question remains: What constitutes a meaningful cue? Here, I will argue that both the idea of evolutionary old systems like the S1 systems (evolved “mental organs”) and the idea of cues activating them (“fitness cues”) are central to evolutionary psychology. I will also present the results of a large scale experiment investigating the impact these cues can have on ad-likeability scores (as indicators of the advertising effectiveness). This experiment equally reveals the value of evolutionary psychology as a sound perspective for cue management practices.
Patrick Vyncke

“Evolutionary Store Atmospherics” – Designing with Evolution in Mind

Environmental psychology research shows that natural environments and natural habitat qualities are better able to positively influence human functioning (e.g., stress reduction) than most common urban environments. Such positive psychological states are often interpreted as remnants of our species’ evolutionary history in natural environments. Nowadays a substantial part of the urban fabric is dedicated to commercial and business-related activities. Such environments however often lack those natural habitat qualities and elements, which have been found to promote positive psychological states. This chapter aims to demonstrate and illustrate the value of integrating such natural qualities into business-related environments, and specifically into retail environments. We coin this design strategy “Evolutionary Store Atmospherics” (ESA). The scope of this chapter is theoretical as well as practical. On the one hand, we provide an overview of the specific “ancestral” landscape elements and qualities that are found to have positive effects on human functioning. On the other hand, we discuss and illustrate how these key qualities can be integrated in store environments. Special attention is paid to situational factors that could interact with ESA design proposals, such as, for example, gender and type of shopping.
Yannick Joye, Karolien Poels, Kim Willems

Rationality and Utility: Economics and Evolutionary Psychology

Economics has always prided itself on having a unifying theoretical framework based on rational choice theory. However, data from controlled experiments, which often provide theory the best chance to work, refute many of the rationality assumptions that economists make. The evidence against rational choice, as traditionally defined, has forced economists to rethink their traditional models. However, despite the investment of many brilliant minds in the pursuit of better behavioral models of choice, behavioral economics has so far made little progress in providing an alternative paradigm that would be both parsimonious and accurate. In this chapter, we review the evidence against rational choice and the ways in which behavioral economists have responded. In addition, we put forward the idea that evolutionary psychology can give economics back its overriding paradigm. Evolutionary psychology can place structure on the utility function and provide content to rationality. By doing so, it can explain many of the behavioral anomalies that behavioral economists and psychologists have documented. If economists are willing to use the evolutionary psychology paradigm, then they can regain theoretical consistency of their discipline and have models that are better descriptors and predictors of behavior.
C. Monica Capra, Paul H. Rubin

Media Compensation Theory: A Darwinian Perspective on Adaptation to Electronic Communication and Collaboration

This chapter proceeds from the paradox that virtual work, teams, and collaboration are generally successful, sometimes even outperforming face-to-face collaborative work efforts in spite of much theory that predicts the opposite. We review theories that have previously been used to explain behavior toward electronic communication media, highlighting a theoretical gap, which is partially filled with a new Darwinian perspective called media compensation theory. Eight theoretical principles are discussed – media naturalness, innate schema similarity, learned schema variety, evolutionary task relevance, compensatory adaptation, media humanness, cue removal, and speech imperative. Those principles are then used as a basis for a discussion of the impact that different media have on virtual collaboration, work and teams. Empirical evidence in connection with the theoretical framework is described. In particular, empirical studies of idea generation, problem solving, and business process redesign tasks are reviewed. The evidence reviewed provides empirical support for the theoretical framework proposed, and a future research agenda on virtual teams from a media naturalness perspective is proposed, especially in terms of temporal processes, adaptation, trust and cheater detection.
Donald A. Hantula, Ned Kock, John P. D’Arcy, Darleen M. DeRosa


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