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The Evolved ApprenticeHow Evolution Made Humans Unique$
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Kim Sterelny

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780262016797

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262016797.001.0001

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Cooperation and Conflict

Cooperation and Conflict

Chapter:
(p.173) 8 Cooperation and Conflict
Source:
The Evolved Apprentice
Author(s):

Kim Sterelny

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262016797.003.0008

This chapter defends an essentially individualist model of the evolution of cooperation amongst Pleistocene foragers. The chapter argues that these foragers satisfied the conditions of the “folk theorem” of stable reciprocation-based cooperation. Their social groups were small and stable, with very high probabilities of future interaction. They were informationally transparent: reputation was very reliable. The rewards of cooperation were high, and the temptations to defect were rarely large. The costs of sanctioning defection were typically modest, and reputation was reliable enough and valuable enough to make investments in reputation through cooperating in controlling defection worth paying. Foragers cooperated because it was almost always in their individual interest to do so. The chapter argues against the idea that group selection drove the evolution of foraging cooperation; these views underestimate the costs of conflict; overestimate its benefits, and are not supported by the archaeological record. Third, the chapter shows that the selective environment changed at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, as groups became sedentary and larger. These changes eroded the forager equilibrium, moreover group-group conflict is much more significant in the archaeological record from this time. While much remains unclear about the origins of farming and more complex social units, it is clear that the evolutionary basis of cooperation changed radically through this transition.

Keywords:   Folk theorem, reciprocal cooperation, indirect reciprocation, partner choice and cooperation, cultural group selection, origins of farming, origins of inequality, Pleistocene-Holocene transition

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