UNSW economist releases new theory on love and loyalty

Thursday, 28 March 2013  Features

A groundbreaking theory on the origin of human love and group loyalty, presented in a new book co-authored by Australian School of Business economist, Dr Gigi Foster, is set to shed new light on human behaviour.

Written with University of Queensland Professor Paul Frijters, An Economic Theory of Greed, Love, Groups and Networks, uses an economic viewpoint to understand, among other things, why people develop loyalty and love for ideas, groups and other people.

Dr Foster says the book provides an explanation of where our social structures come from and suggest ways forward for policy design in areas including poverty reduction and tax compliance. "Probably the single most shocking element of this book is the fact that two economists are offering a theory on the origin of love," said Dr Foster. "Why is it that people fall in love? Why is it that they develop loyalty? At the heart of our theory is the notion that people need to satisfy their basic core needs for things like food, shelter, sex, self-esteem and sense of security."

"But while economists tend to think of people as essentially interested in maximising their material resources, this idea alone cannot explain enough about human behaviour to be able to predict what will happen in any given situation. We believe we have a much better shot at doing that if we incorporate a theory of love and loyalty. We take the standard homo economicus model and enhance it by adding some additional elements, including love that we think are needed in order to make sense of more behaviour."

Dr Foster says her six-year involvement in the project has significantly altered her understanding of inter-human dynamics. "Working on the book has certainly revolutionised my view. It has changed how I think and feel about my own situation, about my own personal relationships, and has drastically changed my understanding of the groups in which I'm operating and the ways in which I can influence them. My strong personal belief is that this book has the potential to revolutionise people's understanding of their lives."

An Economic Theory of Greed, Love, Groups and Networks is published by Cambridge University Press.

Gigi Foster can be contacted on gigi.foster@unsw.edu.au.