The evolution of altruistic social preferences in human groups

Joan Silk, Bailey R. House

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this paper, we consider three hypotheses to account for the evolution of the extraordinary capacity for large-scale cooperation and altruistic social prefer- ences within human societies. One hypothesis is that human cooperation is built on the same evolutionary foundations as cooperation in other animal societies, and that fundamental elements of the social preferences that shape our species’ cooperative behaviour are also shared with other closely related primates. Another hypothesis is that selective pressures favouring cooperative breeding have shaped the capacity for cooperation and the development of social preferences, and produced a common set of behavioural dispositions and social preferences in cooperatively breeding primates and humans. The third hypothesis is that humans have evolved derived capacities for collabor- ation, group-level cooperation and altruistic social preferences that are linked to our capacity for culture. We draw on naturalistic data to assess differences in the form, scope and scale of cooperation between humans and other pri- mates, experimental data to evaluate the nature of social preferences across primate species, and comparative analyses to evaluate the evolutionary origins of cooperative breeding and related forms of behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume371
Issue number1687
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 5 2016

Keywords

  • Altruism
  • Cooperation
  • Social preferences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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