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On the psychology of cooperation in humans and other primates: combining the natural history and experimental evidence of prosociality


Jaeggi, A V; Burkart, J M; van Schaik, C P (2010). On the psychology of cooperation in humans and other primates: combining the natural history and experimental evidence of prosociality. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365(1553):2723-2735.

Abstract

In any given species, cooperation involves prosocial acts that usually return a fitness benefit to the
actor. These acts are produced by a set of psychological rules, which will be similar in related species
if they have a similar natural history of cooperation. Prosocial acts can be (i) reactive, i.e. in response
to specific stimuli, or (ii) proactive, i.e. occur in the absence of such stimuli.We propose that reactive
prosocial acts reflect sensitivity to (i) signals or signs of need and (ii) the presence and size of an
audience, as modified by (iii) social distance to the partner or partners. We examine the evidence
for these elements in humans and other animals, especially non-human primates, based on the
natural history of cooperation, quantified in the context of food sharing, and various experimental
paradigms. The comparison suggests that humans share with their closest living relatives reactive
responses to signals of need, but differ in sensitivity to signs of need and cues of being watched,
as well as in the presence of proactive prosociality. We discuss ultimate explanations for these
derived features, in particular the adoption of cooperative breeding as well as concern for reputation
and costly signalling during human evolution.

In any given species, cooperation involves prosocial acts that usually return a fitness benefit to the
actor. These acts are produced by a set of psychological rules, which will be similar in related species
if they have a similar natural history of cooperation. Prosocial acts can be (i) reactive, i.e. in response
to specific stimuli, or (ii) proactive, i.e. occur in the absence of such stimuli.We propose that reactive
prosocial acts reflect sensitivity to (i) signals or signs of need and (ii) the presence and size of an
audience, as modified by (iii) social distance to the partner or partners. We examine the evidence
for these elements in humans and other animals, especially non-human primates, based on the
natural history of cooperation, quantified in the context of food sharing, and various experimental
paradigms. The comparison suggests that humans share with their closest living relatives reactive
responses to signals of need, but differ in sensitivity to signs of need and cues of being watched,
as well as in the presence of proactive prosociality. We discuss ultimate explanations for these
derived features, in particular the adoption of cooperative breeding as well as concern for reputation
and costly signalling during human evolution.

Citations

68 citations in Web of Science®
69 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
08 University Research Priority Programs > Ethics
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:2010
Deposited On:27 Oct 2010 08:42
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:14
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:0962-8436
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0118
PubMed ID:20679115
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-35540

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