Generous by Nature: Need-based Transfers and the Origins of Human Cooperation (ID46724)

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

Generous by Nature: Need-based Transfers and the Origins of Human Cooperation (ID46724) Generous by Nature: Need-based Transfers and the Origins of Human Cooperation (ID#46724) Background Information and Objectives a. Background In this proposal we explore the question of why humans are generous and how systems of sharing function across societies. Our previous work suggests that humans share extensively, and that generosity is often triggered by others needs, which we refer to as need-based transfers. These systems of sharing may have played a key role in our ancestors ability to expand beyond their tropical origins and into virtually every environment on Earth. Generosity and sharing provide a mechanism for reducing risk associated with living in volatile and unpredictable environments. One common way to reduce risk is to pool it (Dorfman 2007), i.e., to agree to take on some of another partys risk in exchange for their willingness to take on some of ones own. Among the Maasai of East Africa, risk is pooled through a system of need-based giving called osotua, which we have studied through fieldwork, agent-based modeling and laboratory studies. In osotua relationships individuals ask for resources when they are in need, and give to other according to their ability when asked. Osotua is not simply a set of rules that individuals use for sharing with those in need, it is a fundamental pillar of social relationships among the Maasai. We believe that establishment and maintenance of relationships of mutual aid such as osotua have been made possible by the kin-like nature of these relationships combined with the sacredness with which they are imbued. This simple need-based generosity system forms the basis for a complex network of relationships that help pool risk for the whole community and has undoubtedly contributed to the ability of Maasai to thrive for centuries even in some of East Africas most marginal environments.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date8/1/147/31/17

Funding

  • John Templeton Foundation: $829,562.00

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