Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

We're in this together: A pathbreaking investigation into the evolution of cooperative behavior

Date:
November 19, 2012
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
The origins of cooperative behavior are not altruism, but mutual interest, according to a new study.

Humans are much more inclined to cooperate than are their closest evolutionary relatives. The prevailing wisdom about why this is true has long been focused on the idea of altruism: we go out of our way to do nice things for other people, sometimes even sacrificing personal success for the good of others. Modern theories of cooperative behavior suggest that acting selflessly in the moment provides a selective advantage to the altruist in the form of some kind of return benefit.

A new study published by Current Anthropology offers another explanation for our unusual aptitude for collaboration. The authors of the study argue that humans developed cooperative skills because it was in their mutual interest to work well with others -- indeed ecological circumstances forced them to cooperate with others to obtain food. In other words, altruism isn't the reason we cooperate; we must cooperate in order to survive, and we are altruistic to others because we need them.

Previous theories located the origin of cooperation in either small group settings or large, sophisticated societies. Based on results from cognitive and psychological experiments and research on human development, this study provides a comprehensive account of the evolution of cooperation as a two-step process, which begins in small hunter-gatherer groups and becomes more complex and culturally inscribed in larger societies later on.

The authors premise their theory of mutualistic cooperation on the principle of interdependence. They speculate that at some point in our evolution, it became necessary for humans to forage together, which meant that each individual had a direct stake in the welfare of his partners. In this context of interdependence, humans evolved special cooperative abilities that other apes do not possess, including dividing the spoils fairly, communicating goals and strategies, and understanding one's role in the joint activity as equivalent to another's. Good partners -- who were able to coordinate well with their fellow foragers and would pull their weight in the group -- were more likely to succeed.

As societies grew in size and complexity, their members became even more dependent on one another. In what the authors of this study define as a second evolutionary step, these collaborative skills and impulses were developed on a larger scale as humans faced competition from other groups. People became more "group-minded," identifying with others in their society even if they did not know them personally. This new sense of belonging brought about cultural conventions, norms, and institutions that incentivized and structured feelings of social responsibility.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tomasello, Michael, et al. Two Key Steps in the Evolution of Human Cooperation: The Interdependence Hypothesis. Current Anthropology, 53:5; 2012

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "We're in this together: A pathbreaking investigation into the evolution of cooperative behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121119094629.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2012, November 19). We're in this together: A pathbreaking investigation into the evolution of cooperative behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121119094629.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "We're in this together: A pathbreaking investigation into the evolution of cooperative behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121119094629.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins