DS0807 -

Implications of a minimal information and limited computational abilities on money emergence: An experimental approach with humans, macaques and virtual agents – macaque40

Submission summary

Most of the theoretical models in economics proposed so far to describe money emergence are based on three intangible assumptions: the omniscience of economic agents, an infinite time and an extremely large number of agents (not bounded). The goal of this interdisciplinary study is to investigate the condition of apparition of a monetary economy in a more ecological framework provided with the assumption that the market is made up of a finite number of agents having a bounded rationality and facing a time constraint.

The monetary economy recently developed the tools to test experimentally the theoretical and behavioural assumptions that govern the emergence of money as a medium of exchange. These models, called "search-theoretical models" allow to define economic structures (mode of interaction, agent specialisation in terms of production and consumption, cost structures, etc.) easily implementable within a computer simulation or a laboratory experiment.

In this study, we propose a generic model and environment of monetary prospecting. Our first objective is to artificially identify structural (trading organisation, agents specialisation) and cognitive conditions (learning skills, memory and strategic anticipation abilities, tradeoff exploration/exploitation) that allowed money emergence. This will provide relevant environmental constraints that we will use during our manipulations in the laboratory. The agents that will be involved in these manipulations will be of two types: non-human primates (rhesus macaques) and humans.

The formers will allow us to assess the relevance of high-level learning processes in order to achieve money emergence. In particular, are learning rules by trial and error without sophisticated representation and extent strategic anticipation sufficient enough? We will build an ecological environment suitable for the investigation of their behaviour and, in particular, their propensity to exemplify a monetary behaviour. On the basis of the results obtained with our artificial agents in terms of economic structure and cognitive features that are suitable to money emergence, we can make predictions about the macaques ability to instantiate a monetary behaviour in the framework of the economic models concerned.

In the latter, we will study, by a reverse methodological transfer process, the correlations between the behaviour leading to money emergence and some of their psychological characteristics supposedly relevant (risk aversion, patience, computational abilities, depth of strategic reasoning). This then will allows us to "humanise" our artificial agents and explore more systematically the interaction effets between cognitive features and economic structures that can lead to achieve a monetary equilibrium.

This study will allow us to set-up a new experimental tool by which we will be able to compare cognitive architecture between artificial agents, humans and macaques. It will potentially provide us with the foundations for a genuine comparative approach that has never been conducted so far and to integrate methodologically scattered results observed so far upon the biological basis of money emergence.

Project coordination

Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde (UMR 8129 Institut Jean-Nicod)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


IMN Institut des Maladies Neurodégénératives
UMR 8129 IJN UMR 8129 Institut Jean-Nicod

Help of the ANR 257,754 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2016 - 36 Months

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