The heart of economics is an understanding of human choice. Our theories are almost all constructed on a utilitarian model of preferences and choice so understanding how we can improve that model is crucial to progress. Plenty of work has been done by behavioural empiricists on the heuristics that guide our behaviour and the anomalies in our choices. Now a paper by Leibbrandt, Gneezy, and List demonstrates that preferences also change over time in a predictable way. Through an ingenious experiment they show that the competitiveness is a learned trait and our experiences shape how competitive we become.
It’s not a long paper so click through and see how they did it.