Human Sociality and Cooperative Behavior: A Cross-Cultural Approach

Cooperation has deep evolutionary roots. Bees do it, ants do it, even mitochondria do it; and humans do it, too. They and their hominid ancestors have done it for millions of years.  Cooperation is an aspect of our human sociality and part of our cultural repertoire.  It seems that alongside Richard Dawkins’ (1976) “selfish gene” there is a “cooperative gene,” which has shaped and been shaped by human culture over the millennia. The mathematical biologist, Martin Nowak (2006), reviewed five mechanisms that scientists postulate determine the evolution of cooperative behavior. They are Kin Selection, Direct Reciprocity, Indirect Reciprocity, Network Reciprocity and Group Selection. Nowak derives from them an underlying rule of cooperation, which he concludes should be regarded as a third principle of evolution: “Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of evolution is its ability to generate cooperation in a competitive world. Thus we might add “natural cooperation” as a third fundamental principle in evolution beside mutation and natural selection” (Nowak 2006, 1563).

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