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Future Discounting in Congo Basin Hunter-Gatherers Declines with Socio-Economic Transitions

Salali, GD; Migliano, AB; (2015) Future Discounting in Congo Basin Hunter-Gatherers Declines with Socio-Economic Transitions. PLOS ONE , 10 (9) , Article e0137806. 10.1371/journal.pone.0137806. Green open access

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Abstract

Humans have a tendency to discount the future; that is we value small, short-term rewards over larger, long-term rewards. The degree of future discounting, however, changes in response to socio-ecological factors. Here, we study Mbendjele BaYaka hunter-gatherers of northern Congo and their farmer neighbours to investigate adaptations in inter-temporal preferences in humans. We argue that in immediate-return systems, where food storage is absent and egalitarianism is enforced through levelling mechanisms, future discounting is an adaptive strategy to prevent wealth accumulation and the emergence of hierarchies. This ensures food sharing and allows for survival in unpredictable environments where there is risk of an energy shortfall. On the other hand, when food storage is made possible by the emergence of agriculture or as seen in some delayed-return hunter-gatherer populations, wealth accumulation, hierarchies and lower discount rates become the adaptive strategy. Therefore, individuals in immediate-return, egalitarian societies will discount the future more than those in non-egalitarian, delayed-return societies. Consistent with the predictions we found that market integration and socio-economic transitions decrease the future discounting in Mbendjele hunter-gatherers. Our measures of socio-economic differences marked this transition in hunter-gatherers living in a logging town. The degree of future-discounting was the same between more market-integrated hunter-gatherers and their farmer neighbours.

Type: Article
Title: Future Discounting in Congo Basin Hunter-Gatherers Declines with Socio-Economic Transitions
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0137806
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0137806
Language: English
Additional information: © 2015 Salali, Migliano. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1473336
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