Ultra Social Animal

Ultra Social Animal
Main thesis: Humans are especially
social. Social in the way that bees and
ants are, yet bee and ant
cooperativeness is based on kinship.
Humans, by contrast, have a set of
psychological mechanisms that compel
Ultra Social Animal
• Two step processes to ultra-sociality:
• Obligate cooperative foraging. Created intrinsic
motivation to cooperate
• Group competition: Created strong commitment
to group and its cultural norms
Primate Cooperation
• Humans are primates
and primates are
social, but their
sociality co-exists with
strong intra- and intergroup competition.
• Among our closest
relatives (chimpanzees
and bonobos) foraging
is largely solitary, in
sharp contrast to
humans where foraging
is highly cooperative.
Primate Cooperation
• One important exception:
chimps and bonobos
occasionally hunt cooperatively.
• But on close examination this
hunting is actually less
cooperative than it looks. Why?
• Monkeys can’t be caught by a
single hunter. A group must
hunt if anyone is to get anything
• Follow the leader is predominant strategy
• Getting kill or getting close to
kill ensures largest proportion
of spoils
• Individual interests realized in
collective action
Primate Cooperativeness
• Chimpanzee cooperativeness limited by dominance:
• Researchers had children and chimps work together
pulling on ropes to bring into reach a food reward.
• When reward was pre-divided into two equal piles
chimps and children both cooperated effectively.
• When reward was in single pile chimp cooperation
broke down. Why? Dominant chimp took all. Kids, by
contrast, fairly easily divided reward equally.
Primate Cooperativeness
• Slight modification: if working independently and
effort results in reward imbalance (pull on rope and
get reward at the end), chimps never and children
rarely shared (about 1/3 of the time). But if kids work
collaboratively (both pull on single rope with two
rewards at the end), and one gets more than the
other, the lucky one shares, not so with chimps.
Effort-reward justice
• A concept that evolved over the course of human evolution.
• In another study where a second kid or chimp could help out or
not in retrieving a reward, kids excluded a non-participant from
getting part of the reward, whereas chimps did not.
• For chimps critical variable was simply proximity. Whether he/she
had helped or not, if chimp close by, chimp got some of the reward.
Joint effort/mutual goal
• Communication on joint goal:
present in children, not so in
chimps; seems to cement
commitment to shared goal.
• Forsaking one’s role in
cooperative effort requires
permission for kids, not for
• Understanding
complementary roles in
pursuing joint goal: kids seem
to have “bird’s eye view” and
can easily engage in role
reversal, not so with chimps.
“I wanna help!”
• Children, but not chimps,
seem intrinsically
motivated to help each
• Tomasello argues this
may be because our
ancestors were interdependent on one
• “Help out today, because
you may need a partner
tomorrow” became an
implicit part of our
psychological make-up
Group competition
• Selected for organization
and cooperativeness at the
group level.
• So how does a group
member show others that
he/she is a good,
trustworthy, cooperative
• Ans: displays of
commitment to group
Groupishness: Chimps vs. children
• Both chimps and children show
evidence of being influenced
by majority decision.
• Both will make a selection
based on the number of others
who have made the same
• But only kids will make that
selection contradicting their
own earlier experience, having
made an earlier, different
decision that led to a reward.
Groupishness: Chimps vs. children
• Children, but not chimps, also seem motivated to
enforce group norms on others, but only conventional
norms on other group members.
• Group norm: moral rule “no bad words”
• Conventional norm: keep to the right in the hallway

similar documents