Sunday, March 25, 2018

Two key steps in the evolution of human cooperation

The interpendence hypothesis, by Tomasello et al., Current Anthropology Volume 53, Number 6, December 2012

"The dynamics of small-scale collaboration worked fine for foraging in dyads and triads of the moment. But as groups became larger, eventually turning into tribal societies, and groups started competing with one another for resources, new challenges to cooperation arose. The solution was a suite of new proximate mechanisms that we may summarize with the term “group-mindedness.” Behavioral traditions were conventionalized into cultural practices that everyone knew and that everyone expected everyone else to know and conform to, which facilitated individuals’ coordination with in-group strangers. Social selection was conventionalized into group-wide social norms, which were also part of the common ground of the group, as was the group-wide obligation to enforce these norms. People used conformity to the cultural practices and social norms of the society as markers of group identity, and everyone favored and trusted members of their own society over others, especially as group competition heightened. The result was a new kind of interdependence and group-mindedness that went well beyond the joint intentionality of small-scale cooperation to a kind of collective intentionality at the level of the entire societal, that is, cultural,group (Tomasello and Rakoczy 2003)."

"Cultural group selection may have played an important role at this point as well, as some groups created cultural practices, norms, and institutions that enabled them to collaborate better among themselves and so to outcompete other groups. But, as noted at the outset, cultural group selection explains why the particular social norms and institutions of particular cultural groups prevailed, and this assumes species-universal skills and motivations for creating social norms and institutions in the first place. We thus view cultural group selection as a critically important component in the process leading to modern human cooperation in large-scale societies, but only fairly late in the process, that is, after our second step, in which human groups began their truly cultural life in larger societies" (684 - 85).

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