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Strong reciprocity and the roots of human morality


Gintis, Herbert; Henrich, Joseph; Bowles, Samuel; Boyd, Robert; Fehr, Ernst (2008). Strong reciprocity and the roots of human morality. Social Justice Research, 21(2):241-253.

Abstract

Human morality is a key evolutionary adaptation on which human social behavior has been based since the Pleistocene era. Ethical behavior is constitutive of human nature, we argue, and human morality is as important an adaptation as human cognition and speech. Ethical behavior, we assert, need not be a means toward personal gain. Because of our nature as moral beings, humans take pleasure in acting ethically and are pained when acting unethically. From an evolutionary viewpoint, we argue that ethical behavior was fitness-enhancing in the years marking the emergence of Homo sapiens because human groups with many altruists fared better than groups of selfish individuals, and the fitness losses sustained by altruists were more than compensated by the superior performance of the groups in which they congregated.

Abstract

Human morality is a key evolutionary adaptation on which human social behavior has been based since the Pleistocene era. Ethical behavior is constitutive of human nature, we argue, and human morality is as important an adaptation as human cognition and speech. Ethical behavior, we assert, need not be a means toward personal gain. Because of our nature as moral beings, humans take pleasure in acting ethically and are pained when acting unethically. From an evolutionary viewpoint, we argue that ethical behavior was fitness-enhancing in the years marking the emergence of Homo sapiens because human groups with many altruists fared better than groups of selfish individuals, and the fitness losses sustained by altruists were more than compensated by the superior performance of the groups in which they congregated.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2008
Deposited On:01 Feb 2011 11:36
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:41
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0885-7466
Additional Information:The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11211-008-0067-y

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