Cooperation and Its Evolution

Cooperation and Its Evolution

Kim Sterelny
Richard Joyce
Brett Calcott
Ben Fraser
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press,
Pages: 592
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  • Book Info
    Cooperation and Its Evolution
    Book Description:

    This collection reports on the latest research on an increasingly pivotal issue for evolutionary biology: cooperation. The chapters are written from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and utilize research tools that range from empirical survey to conceptual modeling, reflecting the rich diversity of work in the field. They explore a wide taxonomic range, concentrating on bacteria, social insects, and, especially, humans. Part I ("Agents and Environments") investigates the connections of social cooperation in social organizations to the conditions that make cooperation profitable and stable, focusing on the interactions of agent, population, and environment. Part II ("Agents and Mechanisms") focuses on how proximate mechanisms emerge and operate in the evolutionary process and how they shape evolutionary trajectories. Throughout the book, certain themes emerge that demonstrate the ubiquity of questions regarding cooperation in evolutionary biology: the generation and division of the profits of cooperation; transitions in individuality; levels of selection, from gene to organism; and the "human cooperation explosion" that makes our own social behavior particularly puzzling from an evolutionary perspective.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31303-2
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction: The Ubiquity, Complexity, and Diversity of Cooperation
    (pp. 1-14)
    Kim Sterelny, Richard Joyce, Brett Calcott and Ben Fraser

    Cooperation and its evolution has become an increasingly pivotal issue for evolutionary biology as the modern synthesis has developed. The result has been rich and varied, and a glance at this book’s table of contents will show the diversity of the work on cooperation represented here. The chapters in this collection sample richly from the tree of life, though with some concentration on bacteria, social insects, and, especially, hominins. The contributions depend on a wide range of research tools: empirical survey, formal theory and simulation, conceptual clarification and modeling, and some shameless speculation (a prerogative of philosophy through the ages)....

  4. I Agents and Environments
    • 1 The Evolution of Individualistic Norms
      (pp. 17-44)
      Don Ross

      The venerable doctrine of “individualism” comes in two tropes: descriptive and normative. Often they have been subsumed—and not infrequently confused—under the label of “methodological” individualism. This chapter is about the relationships among these ideas in light of the genetic and cultural evolutionary history of humans. It argues that we best appreciate the persuasiveness of normative individualism to most modern people by understanding why their evolutionary history has made working, everyday descriptive individualism hard to achieve and maintain.

      A normative individualist is someone who maintains that the justification of all values ultimately lies in the normative judgments of individual...

    • 2 Timescales, Symmetry, and Uncertainty Reduction in the Origins of Hierarchy in Biological Systems
      (pp. 45-74)
      Jessica C. Flack, Doug Erwin, Tanya Elliot and David C. Krakauer

      An outstanding question in biology is why life has evolved to be hierarchically organized. From genomes, to cells, tissues, individuals, societies, and eco-systems, evolution generates structures with nested spatial and temporal levels (e.g., Feldman & Eshel, 1982; Buss, 1987; Campbell, 1990; Maynard Smith & Szathmary, 1995, Valentine & May, 1996, Jablonski, 2000; Michod, 2000, Gould, 2002; Frank, 2003; Jablonka & Lamb, 2005, Frank, 2009). Typically, with each new structural level comes new functionality—a new feature with positive payoff consequences. This new functionality can be in the form of a new behavioral output such as a feeding response to a previously inaccessible resource. Or,...

    • 3 On Depending on Fish for a Living, and Other Difficulties of Living Sustainably
      (pp. 75-88)
      Hanna Kokko and Katja Heubel

      Mark Kurlansky’sCod: Biography of the Fish That Changed the World(Kurlansky, 1997) is one of those books that you wish every decision maker and policy planner would read. On its pages we read a description of how for centuries, Basque seafarers brought in salted and dried cod from nobody knew where (except for the Basques themselves). By the time explorers like John Cabot described their “New Found Land” for the king, their findings were certainly not news for the Basques who had found that land ages ago (and had been using it for drying cod) but preferred keeping their...

    • 4 Life in Interesting Times: Cooperation and Collective Action in the Holocene
      (pp. 89-108)
      Kim Sterelny

      When our lineage split from the other great apes, our ancestors’ lives were probably rather similar to those of living chimps: social, intimate, small scale, but not very cooperative. Chimps (and bonobos) form coalitions in social competition, in male-male intergroup rivalry, and perhaps in hunting. So there is some cooperation in conspecific interactions, and perhaps in some aspects of ecological interaction. But there is virtually no informational or reproductive cooperation. Since that split there have been two great revolutions in hominin social life. One is the human revolution: the gradual transition from chimplike social lives to culture, cognition, communication, and...

    • 5 The Birth of Hierarchy
      (pp. 109-116)
      Paul Seabright

      Archaeologists and anthropologists are now in broad agreement that forager societies were substantially more egalitarian than virtually all the societies that succeeded them after the widespread adoption of agriculture. It is no longer tenable to claim that this is because the naturally egalitarian instincts of humankind have been corrupted by modern society. Christopher Boehm (1999), who surveys the evidence for the egalitarian nature of forager societies, argues that in fact their members seem to have been at least as status-conscious and competitive as their modern descendants. However, human beings also share both a taste and a talent for collaborating to...

    • 6 Territoriality and Loss Aversion: The Evolutionary Roots of Property Rights
      (pp. 117-130)
      Herbert Gintis

      Theendowment effectis the notion that people value a good that they possess more highly than the same good when they do not possess it. Experimental studies (see sec. 1) have shown that subjects exhibit a systematic endowment effect. The endowment effect gives rise toloss aversion, according to which agents are more sensitive to losses than to gains. The leading analytical model of loss aversion isprospect theory(Kahneman & Tversky, 1979). This chapter suggests a plausible argument for the existence and importance of the endowment effect and loss aversion in humans and links this with territoriality in nonhuman...

    • 7 Cooperation and Biological Markets: The Power of Partner Choice
      (pp. 131-152)
      Ronald Noë and Bernhard Voelkl

      Cooperation is a phenomenon that has attracted interest from scholars of many different disciplines, some of which concentrate on human behavior (anthropology, economics, sociology, and psychology), while others focus on interactions among nonhuman organisms (behavioral ecology, evolutionary ecology). In the biological sciences it attracts so much attention because its emergence and maintenance, both on an evolutionary timescale and on the timescale of individual relationships, form an enigma that is difficult to explain. Cooperation seems to contravene the basic notion of evolutionary biology that natural selection favors selfish entities that promote only their own wellbeing. Darwin (1859) already noted that several...

    • 8 False Advertising in Biological Markets: Partner Choice and the Problem of Reliability
      (pp. 153-174)
      Ben Fraser

      Thepartner choiceapproach to understanding the evolution of cooperation builds on approaches that focus onpartner controlby considering processes that occur prior to pair or group formation. Proponents of the partner choice approach rightly note that competition to be chosen as a partner can help solve the puzzle of cooperation (Noe, 2006; Miller, 2007; Nesse, 2007). I aim to build on the partner choice approach by considering the role of signaling in partner choice. Partnership formation often requires reliable information. Signaling is thus important in the context of partner choice. However, the issue of signal reliability has been...

    • 9 MHC-Mediated Benefits of Trade: A Biomolecular Approach to Cooperation in the Marketplace
      (pp. 175-194)
      Haim Ofek

      The discussion in this chapter is an attempt to reconcile two observations: (1) that vertebrates are generally the least cooperative form of life in the animal kingdom and, conversely, (2) that humans are the most cooperative form of life in the same kingdom (at least in terms of cooperation with nonkin). The main challenge is to reconcile such a diametric departure on the part of humans with the fact that humans are perfect vertebrates in all other respects. The second section of this chapter explains why, excepting our own species, the vertebrates are all but universally defective or nearly defective...

    • 10 What We Donʹt Know about the Evolution of Cooperation in Animals
      (pp. 195-202)
      Deborah M. Gordon

      The starting point for many studies of the evolution of cooperation is to explain why cooperation ever happens at all. Beginning with the premise that each individual’s actions should serve that individual’s interests, the question is why would anyone ever act in the interest of someone else? Models in evolutionary biology set up this question as a quantitative problem, in which the interests of the cooperating actor must be measured in the currency of reproductive success. How can we add up the benefits of cooperation so that it turns out that acting cooperatively serves the interests of the actor? The...

    • 11 Task Partitioning: Is It a Useful Concept?
      (pp. 203-222)
      Adam G. Hart

      Division of labor allows for specialization (Smith, 1776). Division of labor in human groups has long been an important organizational principle; and, as societies expand and become more complex, so division of labor has become both more complex and more essential. Insect societies, with highly interrelated tasks, such as foraging, caring for young, and nest building, also depend to a great extent on the effective and efficient organization of the workforce through division of labor. Studies of social (more precisely, eusocial) insect organization have tended to lead us toward an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the functions, causes, and implications of...

    • 12 Cooperative Breeding in Birds: Toward a Richer Conceptual Framework
      (pp. 223-246)
      Andrew Cockburn

      In most organisms, care for offspring stops once the egg is provisioned, or else is dominated by just one parent. However, in some taxa, cooperation occurs between both the male and female parent, and parental care is shared. True cooperative breeding, where more than two individuals combine to rear a single brood of offspring, has also evolved many times, though its phylogenetic distribution is patchy, being particularly common in some groups of insects and in birds. By simple arithmetic, some of the individual carers in cooperative groups are assisting young that are not their own. As parental care is costly,...

  5. II Agents and Mechanisms
    • 13 Why the Proximate–Ultimate Distinction Is Misleading, and Why It Matters for Understanding the Evolution of Cooperation
      (pp. 249-264)
      Brett Calcott

      In a review article on the evolution of cooperation, Stuart West and colleagues suggested that future work on cooperation could profit from “an emphasis on the distinction and interplay between mechanistic (proximate) and evolutionary (ultimate or selective value) approaches” (West, Griffin & Gardner 2007, p. 16). I’ve previously argued that a variety of explanatory approaches to cooperation is desirable (Calcott, 2008, 2011), so I’m on board—at least in principle. But Mayr’s proximate–ultimate distinction (Mayr 1961), once examined, turns out to be a rather muddled affair. I’m not the first to point this out,¹ but here I give an analysis...

    • 14 Emergence of a Signaling Network with Probe and Adjust
      (pp. 265-274)
      Brian Skyrms and Simon M. Huttegger

      Once individuals have developed a system of signals, in one way or another, they may spontaneously assemble into a signaling network. The network structure achieved may depend both on the payoffs involved and on the kind of adaptive dynamics driving the evolution of the network. We focus here on one example due to Bala and Goyal (2000), in which a ring network, where information flows cheaply, fully, and without degradation but only in one direction, has strong distinguishing properties. In such a ring network, each participant has exactly one connection to another participant such that the overall configuration of connections...

    • 15 Bacterial Social Life: Information Processing Characteristics and Cooperation Coevolve
      (pp. 275-288)
      Livio Riboli-Sasco, François Taddei and Sam Brown

      Bacteria are fast becoming a new paradigm for social evolution, owing to their widespread investment in costly collective traits, such as the secretion of externally active proteins (Crespi, 2001; West, Diggle et al., 2007). The experimental and theoretical study of bacterial systems generates new perspectives on cooperation by drawing attention to the particular importance of information transfer in shaping bacterial cooperation. Information transfers are achieved in bacterial systems through very different processes, such as quorum sensing, conjugation, and transformation, and these channels can be established even between bacteria of different species. Interestingly, recent research has shown that genes coding for...

    • 16 Two Modes of Transgenerational Information Transmission
      (pp. 289-312)
      Nicholas Shea

      Much of the organized complexity found in living things depends on communication. Many differences between forms of social organization can be traced to differences in the way information is communicated between individuals. The complexity of an organism depends on communication between cells, organs, and other component parts. These forms of horizontal communication rightly receive considerable attention. However, transgenerational communication is equally significant. Differences in the way that information is communicated down the generations also play an important role in explaining differences among living things. In particular, major innovations in transgenerational signaling have probably been especially important in recent hominin evolution....

    • 17 What Can Imitation Do for Cooperation?
      (pp. 313-332)
      Cecilia Heyes

      Does imitation play a significant role in human ultra-cooperation? Is our ability to copy body movements an important part of the matrix of cognitive skills that deliver collective action and information sharing on an unprecedented scale? For at least a century, psychologists and biologists have answered these questions with a firm “yes.” This chapter also says “yes,” but questions the traditional picture of how and why imitation supports cooperation. I’ll argue that imitation is not a “module” or cognitive adaptation for cooperation, that it contributes to collective action and information sharing in a wider variety of ways than has been...

    • 18 The Role of Learning in Punishment, Prosociality, and Human Uniqueness
      (pp. 333-372)
      Fiery Cushman

      At your local natural history museum rows of tiny dripping noses press on display cases, peering at the impalas, the grizzlies, and the komodo dragons. Like the glass that separates stuffed noses from stuffed animals, something separates humans from other animals—something substantial, but hard to see. Some combination of accumulated changes must explain language, science, culture, art, and civilization—in short, why humans build the museums and other animals inhabit them.

      This essay focuses on just one element of that change: the uniquely rich, complex, and successful range of human prosocial behaviors. Even more narrowly, it focuses on the...

    • 19 Our Pigheaded Core: How We Became Smarter to Be Influenced by Other People
      (pp. 373-398)
      Hugo Mercier

      (Other) people’s gullibility is a common source of complaint in the political world. Republicans lament that Democrats naively trust the “liberal media.” Democrats wonder how Republicans can be so credulous as to believe Fox News. In this kind of attack, gullibility is often equated with lack of sophistication; the subtext is “How can they be so stupid?” (“Sophisticated” is a common antonym of “gullible”). Indeed, there seems to be a widespread intuition that the best way to influence people is to stop them from thinking. Politicians, newscasters, and educators are wont to dumb down their messages; ad men try to...

    • 20 Altruistic Behaviors from a Developmental and Comparative Perspective
      (pp. 399-424)
      Felix Warneken

      Humans are not oblivious to the needs of others. Indeed, people will act on the behalf of others, even in situations that are of no obvious immediate benefit to the actor and may involve some kind of cost to him or her. Philosophers and scientists have debated the origins of these altruistic tendencies for centuries. More recently, empirical methods in the behavioral sciences and insights from evolutionary theory have provided some answers and added new questions to this perennial debate about human altruism. Importantly, some of the most illuminating research has broadened the scope beyond the altruistic behaviors exhibited by...

    • 21 Culture-Gene Coevolution, Large-Scale Cooperation, and the Shaping of Human Social Psychology
      (pp. 425-458)
      Maciek Chudek, Wanying Zhao and Joseph Henrich

      Standard evolutionary approaches to understanding human sociality, and in particular to understanding cooperation and altruism, have yielded a wide range of important insights. Noteworthy examples include explorations of how natural selection has shaped our psychological capacities for recognizing and helping kin, and differentially investing in offspring (e.g., Daly & Wilson, 1999; DeBruine, 2002). However, these canonical evolutionary approaches to cooperation—based on kinship, reciprocity, reputation, and signaling—fail both empirically and theoretically when they aim to explainlarger-scale human cooperation—that is, cooperation and exchange among hundreds or thousands of unrelated, ephemeral interactants. Empirically, these approaches do not take sufficient note...

    • 22 Suicide Bombers, Weddings, and Prison Tattoos: An Evolutionary Perspective on Subjective Commitment and Objective Commitment
      (pp. 459-484)
      Daniel M. T. Fessler and Katinka Quintelier

      Consider three hypothetical suicide bombers. The first seeks to die in a suicide attack because he believes that doing so is an effective means of achieving his pragmatic objectives, including obtaining access to sexual opportunities and ensuring the material and spiritual welfare of his family. The second seeks to die in a suicide attack because he is outraged at the treatment that he and others like him have received at the hands of their oppressors, feels that his honor has been tarnished, and therefore longs to visit vengeance upon his enemy. The third seeks to die in a suicide attack...

    • 23 Communicative Functions of Shame and Guilt
      (pp. 485-502)
      June P. Tangney, Jeffrey Stuewig, Elizabeth T. Malouf and Kerstin Youman

      Shame and guilt have been variously referred to as self-conscious emotions, moral emotions, secondary or derived emotions, and social emotions. Such varied terminology hints at the rich and varied functions served by shame and guilt among humans. In this chapter, we describe the difference between shame and guilt. We then discuss these varied functions, focusing on shame and guilt as internal processes that bear on self-regulation as well as the communicative functions of shame and guilt in the interpersonal realm.

      Together with embarrassment and pride, theorists have conceived of shame and guilt as members of a family of “self-conscious” emotions...

    • 24 Moral Disgust and the Tribal Instincts Hypothesis
      (pp. 503-524)
      Daniel R. Kelly

      Psychological research has been discovering a number of puzzling features of morality and moral cognition recently.¹ Zhong and Liljenquist (2006) found that when people are asked to think about an unethical deed or recall one they themselves have committed in the past, issues ofphysical cleanlinessbecome salient. Zhong and Liljenquist cleverly designate this phenomenon the “Macbeth Effect,” and it takes some interesting forms. For instance, reading a story describing an immoral deed increased people’s desire for products related to cleansing, like shower soap, disinfectants, or antiseptic wipes. Moreover, Zhong and Liljenquist found that cleaning one’s hands after describing a...

    • 25 Evolution, Motivation, and Moral Beliefs
      (pp. 525-548)
      Matteo Mameli

      According to John Mackie, someone who makes a moral judgment is making a judgment that “involves a call for action, or for the refraining from action, and one that is absolute, not contingent upon any desire, or preference or policy or choice, his own or anyone else’s” (Mackie, 1977, p. 33). In his bookThe Evolution of Morality, Richard Joyce (2006) develops Mackie’s suggestion and gives an interesting characterization of the mental states expressed by moral judgments. I will call such mental statesmoral beliefs. Whether moral beliefs are actuallybeliefsis controversial. Noncognitivists deny that moral judgments—unlike other...

    • 26 The Many Moral Nativisms
      (pp. 549-572)
      Richard Joyce

      John Stuart Mill’s opinion that “moral feelings are not innate, but acquired” (Mill, 1861, p. 527) was, in the estimation of Charles Darwin, destined to be judged as “a most serious blemish” on that moral philosopher’s future reputation (Darwin, 1879/2004, p. 121). But Darwin’s prophesy has so far proved incorrect; Mill’s opinion on the matter has hardly been commented upon, let alone decried. Indeed, the whole question of the origin of human morality received remarkably little discussion in the century or so after Darwin’sDescent.¹ The last two decades, however, have seen the question placed back on the agenda. The...

  6. Contributors
    (pp. 573-574)
  7. Index
    (pp. 575-578)