A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution

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Princeton University Press, May 31, 2011 - Business & Economics - 280 pages
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Why do humans, uniquely among animals, cooperate in large numbers to advance projects for the common good? Contrary to the conventional wisdom in biology and economics, this generous and civic-minded behavior is widespread and cannot be explained simply by far-sighted self-interest or a desire to help close genealogical kin.

In A Cooperative Species, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis--pioneers in the new experimental and evolutionary science of human behavior--show that the central issue is not why selfish people act generously, but instead how genetic and cultural evolution has produced a species in which substantial numbers make sacrifices to uphold ethical norms and to help even total strangers.

The authors describe how, for thousands of generations, cooperation with fellow group members has been essential to survival. Groups that created institutions to protect the civic-minded from exploitation by the selfish flourished and prevailed in conflicts with less cooperative groups. Key to this process was the evolution of social emotions such as shame and guilt, and our capacity to internalize social norms so that acting ethically became a personal goal rather than simply a prudent way to avoid punishment.

Using experimental, archaeological, genetic, and ethnographic data to calibrate models of the coevolution of genes and culture as well as prehistoric warfare and other forms of group competition, A Cooperative Species provides a compelling and novel account of how humans came to be moral and cooperative.


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User Review  - dono421846 - LibraryThing

A technical book, full of equations, but not altogether inaccessible. The authors systematically review a solid line of research on the evolution of cooperative behavior. A strength of this volume ... Read full review


1 A Cooperative Species
2 The Evolution of Altruism in Humans
3 Social Preferences
4 The Sociobiology of Human Cooperation
5 Cooperative Homo economicus
6 Ancestral Human Society
7 The Coevolution of Institutions and Behaviors
8 Parochialism Altruism and War
10 Socialization
11 Social Emotions
Human Cooperation and Its Evolution
Subject Index
Author Index

9 The Evolution of Strong Reciprocity

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About the author (2011)

Samuel Bowles heads the Behavioral Sciences Program at the Santa Fe Institute and teaches economics at the University of Siena. Herbert Gintis holds faculty positions at the Santa Fe Institute, Central European University, and the University of Siena.

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