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A marginal model of tolerated theft


Using marginal analysis to represent Blurton Jones's concept of tolerated theft, I show how equilibrium resource transfers among individuals might be affected by foraging behavior, resource qualities, and number of participants. The model applies to hominids and other species that exchange or share food or other resources. Among the results: Tolerated theft enhances the value to be derived from resources, packets intermediate in size are most likely to be subjected to tolerated theft, packet division is more likely to be unequal than equal, division is a function of group size, and tolerated theft is most likely in small groups. The model also suggests that among redprocators the widest possible exchange or sharing is in the self-interest of the individual procuring the resource. In general, evolutionary cost-benefit accounting should track marginal changes in the value (fitness or utility) of resources. Marginal valuation is conceptually primary and may produce results that differ from direct measures of quantity. © Elsevier Science Inc., 1996.

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