Cooperation & Altruism

The Primate Diaries

Category archives for Cooperation & Altruism

Author’s Note: This post was selected as the topic for the ResearchBlogCast as part of ResearchBlogging.org. Listen to the discussion here.    Could punishing bad behavior be the origin                  of human cooperation? Humans are one of the most cooperative species on the planet. Our ability to coordinate behavior and work collaboratively with others has allowed us…

A new study shows that chimps sacrifice their own advantage if they earned it unfairly.Image: Owen Booth / Creative Commons Fairness is the basis of the social contract. As citizens we expect that when we contribute our fair share we should receive our just reward. When social benefits are handed out unequally or when prior…

Helpful Cichlids in the Gladiator’s Show

Image: The Daffodil Cichlid of Lake Tanganyika / Koen Eeckhoudt In 1888 “Darwin’s Bulldog”, Thomas Henry Huxley, declared that nature was little more than a “gladiator’s show” whereby only “the strongest, the swiftest, and the cunningest live to fight another day.” Brutal competition was the only important factor in the natural world, in which a…

Bonobos and the Child-Like Joy of Sharing

   Bonobos retain juvenile traits related   to tolerance and cooperation.            Image: Vanessa WoodsHow many times as a kid would your parents tell you to grow up and act your age? It turns out that not acting our age may be the very reason why we’re so successful as a species. Brian Hare and colleagues have just released a…

Reciprocity is an intrinsic feature of human beings as well as most species of ape. Chimpanzees and bonobos regularly engage in granting gifts of food and expect a return on their generosity (those who don’t reciprocate are less likely to receive such gifts in the future) (de Waal and Brosnan 2006). This “tit-for-tat” basis of…

Survival of the Kindest

Seed magazine has just posted my review of Frans de Waal’s The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society. I wanted to use this opportunity to thank Nikki, Evan, Bora and everyone else that helped in developing this piece. For posts on related topics please see Misunderstanding Dawkins, The Sacrifice of Admetus, Bonobos…

Author’s Note: This piece is a continuation of my article “Survival of the Kindest” that appeared in Seed magazine. As an undergraduate in biology and anthropology I read every one of Dawkins’ books voraciously and would get into heated debates with my close friends about the Dawkins-Gould rivalry. He was one of the primary voices…

Heracles battles Death for generosity’s sake / Frederic Lord Leighton (1869-71) Whereas great scientific theories stand the test of time when they accurately predict the natural world through repeated empirical trials, great literature transcends the ages when it speaks to universal qualities of human experience. Such inspirational works can also, without the authors realizing at…

The Evolution of Morality

Darwin evicts a Social Darwinist and Eugenicist from his house / Northwestern Univ. Primatologist Frans de Waal, author of such classic works as Chimpanzee Politics, Peacemaking Among Primates, Good Natured: The Origin of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals, and Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape is now coming out with his new book The…

My previous post on a potential problem for the selfish gene theory in explaining cooperative behavior resulted in a fair amount of heated discussion. However, there are quite a few misconceptions regarding the controversy surrounding the selfish gene, group selection, multilevel selection, generalized reciprocity, etc. that need to be clarified. When Richard Dawkins published The…