Humans regularly engage in prosocial behavior that differs strikingly from that of even our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). In laboratory settings, chimpanzees are indifferent when given the opportunity to deliver valued rewards to conspecifics, while even very young human children have repeatedly been shown to behave prosocially. Although this broadly suggests that prosocial behavior in chimpanzees differs from that of young human children, the methods used in prior work with children have also differed from the methods used in studies of chimpanzees in potentially crucial ways. Here we test 92 pairs of 3-8-year-old children from urban American (Los Angeles, CA, USA) schools in a face-to-face task that closely parallels tasks used previously with chimpanzees. We found that children were more prosocial than chimpanzees have previously been in similar tasks, and our results suggest that this was driven more by a desire to provide benefits to others than a preference for egalitarian outcomes. We did not find consistent evidence that older children were more prosocial than younger children, implying that younger children behaved more prosocially in the current study than in previous studies in which participants were fully anonymous. These findings strongly suggest that humans are more prosocial than chimpanzees from an early age and that anonymity influences children's prosocial behavior, particularly at the youngest ages. (C) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The sanctioning of norm-transgressors is a necessary-though often costly-task for maintaining a well-functioning society. Prior to effective and reliable secular institutions for punishment, large-scale societies depended on individuals engaging in 'altruistic punishment'-bearing the costs of punishment individually, for the benefit of society. Evolutionary approaches to religion suggest that beliefs in powerful, moralizing Gods, who can distribute rewards and punishments, emerged as a way to augment earthly punishment in large societies that could not effectively monitor norm violations. In five studies, we investigate whether such beliefs in God can replace people's motivation to engage in altruistic punishment, and their support for state-sponsored punishment. Results show that, although religiosity generally predicts higher levels of punishment, the specific belief in powerful, intervening Gods reduces altruistic punishment and support for state-sponsored punishment. Moreover, these effects are specifically owing to differences in people's perceptions that humans are responsible for punishing wrongdoers.
Reasoning about the evolution of our species' capacity for cumulative cultural learning has led culture gene coevolutionary (CGC) theorists to predict that humans should possess several learning biases which robustly enhance the fitness of cultural learners. Meanwhile, developmental psychologists have begun using experimental procedures to probe the learning biases that young children actually possess - a methodology ripe for testing CGC. Here we report the first direct tests in children of CGC's prediction of prestige bias, a tendency to learn from individuals to whom others have preferentially attended, learned or deferred. Our first study showed that the odds of 3- and 4-year-old children learning from an adult model to whom bystanders had previously preferentially attended for 10 seconds (the prestigious model) were over twice those of their learning from a model whom bystanders ignored. Moreover, this effect appears domain-sensitive: in Study 2 when bystanders preferentially observed a prestigious model using artifacts, she was learned from more often on subsequent artifact-use tasks (odds almost five times greater) but not on food-preference tasks, while the reverse was true of a model who received preferential bystander attention while expressing food preferences. (C) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The target article misunderstands the research program it criticizes. The work of Boyd, Richerson, Fehr, Gintis, Bowles and their collaborators has long included the theoretical and empirical study of models both with and without diffuse costly punishment. In triaging the situation, we aim to (1) clarify the theoretical landscape, (2) highlight key points of agreement, and (3) suggest a more productive line of debate.
Over the past several decades, we have argued that cultural evolution can facilitate the evolution of large-scale cooperation because it often leads to more rapid adaptation than genetic evolution, and, when multiple stable equilibria exist, rapid adaptation leads to variation among groups. Recently, Lehmann, Feldman, and colleagues have published several papers questioning this argument. They analyze models showing that cultural evolution can actually reduce the range of conditions under which cooperation can evolve and interpret these models as indicating that we were wrong to conclude that culture facilitated the evolution of human cooperation. In the main, their models assume that rates of cultural adaption are not strong enough compared to migration to maintain persistent variation among groups when payoffs create multiple stable equilibria. We show that Lehmann et al. reach different conclusions because they have made different assumptions. We argue that the assumptions that underlie our models are more consistent with the empirical data on large-scale cultural variation in humans than those of Lehmann et al., and thus, our models provide a more plausible account of the cultural evolution of human cooperation in large groups.
Western children first show signs of mirror self-recognition (MSR) from 18 to 24 months of age, the benchmark index of emerging self-concept. Such signs include self-oriented behaviors while looking at the mirror to touch or remove a mark surreptitiously placed on the child’s face. The authors attempted to replicate this finding across cultures using a simplified version of the classic “mark test.” In Experiment 1, Kenyan children (N = 82, 18 to 72 months old) display a pronounced absence of spontaneous self-oriented behaviors toward the mark. In Experiment 2, the authors tested children in Fiji, Saint Lucia, Grenada, and Peru (N = 133, 36 to 55 months old), as well as children from urban United States and rural Canada. As expected from existing reports, a majority of the Canadian and American children demonstrate spontaneous self-oriented behaviors toward the mark. However, markedly fewer children from the non-Western rural sites demonstrate such behaviors. These results suggest that there are profound cross-cultural differences in the meaning of the MSR test, questioning the validity of the mark test as a universal index of self-concept in children’s development.
The use of socially learned information (culture) is central to human adaptations. We investigate the hypothesis that the process of cultural evolution has played an active, leading role in the evolution of genes. Culture normally evolves more rapidly than genes, creating novel environments that expose genes to new selective pressures. Many human genes that have been shown to be under recent or current selection are changing as a result of new environments created by cultural innovations. Some changed in response to the development of agricultural subsistence systems in the Early and Middle Holocene. Alleles coding for adaptations to diets rich in plant starch (e.g., amylase copy number) and to epidemic diseases evolved as human populations expanded (e.g., sickle cell and deficiency alleles that provide protection against malaria). Large-scale scans using patterns of linkage disequilibrium to detect recent selection suggest that many more genes evolved in response to agriculture. Genetic change in response to the novel social environment of contemporary modern societies is also likely to be occurring. The functional effects of most of the alleles under selection during the last 10,000 years are currently unknown. Also unknown is the role of paleoenvironmental change in regulating the tempo of hominin evolution. Although the full extent of culture-driven gene-culture coevolution is thus far unknown for the deeper history of the human lineage, theory and some evidence suggest that such effects were profound. Genomic methods promise to have a major impact on our understanding of gene-culture coevolution over the span of hominin evolutionary history.