Special Evolution Seminar: Bailey House, MPI Leipzig

Jan 30, 2014 at | Lynch Lecture Hall

Human development and naturalistic social interactions in chimpanzees: Understanding prosociality in the human lineage

  Both evolved adaptations and acquired information likely shape cooperation in many social animals. As such, to resolve the origins of human prosociality we must learn how uniquely human capacities for cultural learning and cultural evolution produce novel and diverse cooperative behavioral equilibria – and we must also describe the nature and phylogeny of adaptations for cooperation shared by humans and our close primate relatives. These issues have stimulated vigorous debates across anthropology, psychology and economics, and in my work


I argue that important progress can be made by focusing on human development and on naturalistic social interactions in chimpanzees. In this talk I will present my work exploring the ontogeny of prosocial behavior across diverse human societies, which illustrates a new approach to studying how evolved culture shapes human cooperation across the lifespan. I will also present studies of prosociality in captive chimpanzees in which I create greater opportunities for animals to engage in partner choice, an essential component of cooperation in natural social interactions. This work integrates theory and methods from disciplines across the social, behavioral and economic sciences to construct new tools for studying the evolutionary processes that have been and still are shaping human sociality.