Origins of Human Cooperation

Biological explanations of cooperation are based on kin altruism, reciprocal altruism, and mutualism, all of which apply to human and nonhuman species alike. Human cooperation, however, is based in part on capacities that are unique to, or at least much more highly developed in Homo sapiens. In this chapter, an explanation of cooperation is sought that works for humans but does not work for other species, or works substantially less well. Central to this explanation will be human cognitive, linguistic, and physical capacities that allow the formulation of general norms of social conduct, the emergence of social institutions regulating this conduct, the psychological capacity to internalize norms, and the formation of groups based on such nonkin characteristics as ethnicity and linguistic behavior, which facilitates highly costly conflicts among groups. Agent-based modeling shows that these practices could have coevolved with other human traits in a plausible representation of the relevant environments. The forms of cooperation to be explained are confirmed by natural observation, historical accounts, and behavioral experiments and are based on a plausible evolutionary dynamic involving some combination of genetic and cultural elements, the consistency of which can be demonstrated through formal modeling. Moreover, the workings of the models developed account for human cooperation under parameter values consistent with  what can be reasonably inferred about the environments in which humans have lived.


Read also: Genetic and Cultural Evolution of Cooperation

About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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