This paper addresses the nature, formalization, and neural bases of (affective) social ties and discusses the relevance of ties for health economics. A social tie is defined as an affective weight attached by an individual to the well-being of another individual (‘utility interdependence’). Ties can be positive or negative, and symmetric or asymmetric between individuals. Characteristic of a social tie, as conceived of here, is that it develops over time under the influence of interaction, in contrast with a trait like altruism. Moreover, a tie is not related to strategic behavior such as reputation formation but seen as generated by affective responses. A formalization is presented together with some supportive evidence from behavioral experiments. This is followed by a discussion of related psychological constructs and the presentation of suggestive neural findings, based on the existing literature. We conclude with some suggestions for future research. Publication forthcoming in 'On the Nature, Modeling and Neural Bases of Social Ties', Daniel E. Houser and Kevin A. McCabe (eds), Neuroeconomics, Advances in Health Economics and Health Services Research, Emerald Insight Publishing.

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Tinbergen Institute
Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper Series
Discussion paper / Tinbergen Institute
Tinbergen Institute

van Winden, F., Stallen, M., & Ridderinkhof, R. (2008). On the Nature, Modeling, and Neural Bases of Social Ties (No. TI 2008-063/1). Discussion paper / Tinbergen Institute. Retrieved from