Humans naturally cooperative, altruistic, social

Sep 08, 2011

The condition of man is a condition of war, wrote 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes. A quick glance through history books and today's news headlines certainly seems to support the longstanding idea that humans by nature are aggressive, selfish and antagonistic.

But this view simply doesn't fit with scientific facts, write researchers featured in the new book "Origins of Altruism and Cooperation" (Springer, 2011), edited by Robert W. Sussman, PhD, and C. Robert Cloninger, MD. The book's authors argue that humans are naturally cooperative, altruistic and social, only reverting to when stressed, abused, neglected or mentally ill.

The book, which now is available, presents evidence supporting this idea from a range of academic perspectives, including anthropology, psychiatry, biology, sociology, religion, medicine and more.

"Cooperation isn't just a byproduct of competition, or something done only because both parties receive some benefit from the partnership," says Sussman, professor of in Arts & Sciences. "Rather, altruism and cooperation are inherent in primates, including humans."

For example, Sussman says, chimpanzees have been observed to adopt unrelated, orphaned infants, despite the significant amount of effort and time required to care for the infants.

Sussman and Cloninger write in the book's preface that examining the influences that underlie human behavior is critical to understanding why conflicts arise among peoples and nations in the modern world and to finding the best ways to promote peaceful, productive interaction among humans worldwide.

"Prosocial behavior is an essential component of health and happiness in human beings," says Cloninger, the Wallace Renard Professor of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine. "Selfish and uncooperative behavior, on the other hand, is a sign of mental dysfunction because it is strongly associated with life dissatisfaction and ill health."

In addition to chapters co-authored by Sussman and Cloninger, the book includes articles by two other WUSTL faculty members — Peter Benson, PhD, assistant professor of sociocultural anthropology, and Jane Phillips-Conroy, PhD, professor of anatomy and neurobiology and of anthropology — and other academic experts from around the world.

Topics of the book's chapters — which range from relationships among howler monkeys to the influences of modern Western culture on human spirituality — were taken from discussions and presentations held at a 2009 conference at WUSTL titled "Man the Hunted: The Origin and Nature of Human Sociality, Altruism and Well-Being."

The conference, organized by Sussman and Cloninger, was the first of its kind to bring together international academics across disciplines to examine the evolution of , and sociality in primates and humans.

Explore further: Enhanced communication key to successful teamwork in dynamic environments

More information: For more information about the book "Origins of Altruism and Cooperation," visit springer.com/life+sciences/behavioural/book/978-1-4419-9519-3

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RhabbKnotte
1 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2011
There is NO SUCH THING as ALTRUISM! It's a stupid concept. Everyone does everything for a reason; even if it's only a "warm and fuzzy feeling" reason. Even Mother Teresa was laying up her store in Heaven! Altruism is a cool concept but, at it's core, breaks down in reality. Just sayin....
frajo
3 / 5 (4) Sep 10, 2011
There is NO SUCH THING as ALTRUISM! It's a stupid concept. Everyone does everything for a reason; even if it's only a "warm and fuzzy feeling" reason.

You are right assuming that everything is done for a reason.
You are wrong, however, in assuming that altruism is defined by "not done for a reason".
It's the kind of reasons that separate selfish deeds from unselfish deeds. Someone who gives away material advantages to somebody else in order to feel that "warm and fuzzy" feeling but without any material advantage for himself is, by definition, an altruist.

Fact is that the majority of people eagerly refuse any "warm and fuzzy feeling" for the sake of their own material and often unethical advantage.
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Sep 10, 2011
Humans naturally cooperative, altruistic, social
Only when it's advantageous for them. The life in large social groups is advantageous - but I seriously doubt, it's natural for humans.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.2 / 5 (15) Sep 10, 2011
Hmmm nothing about tribalism or the natural tendency of humans to treat fellow tribal members altruistically while treating those from competing tribes with animosity.
http://rechten.el...RID2.pdf

"chimpanzees have been observed to adopt unrelated, orphaned infants, despite the significant amount of effort and time required to care for [them]."

-An early example of assimilation to increase tribal size, without having to suffer a pregnancy? Chimps have also been observed making war on other groups:

"The objective of the 10-year campaign was clearly to capture territory, the researchers concluded. The Ngogo males could control more fruit trees, their females would have more to eat and so would reproduce faster, and the group would grow larger, stronger and more likely to survive."
http://www.nytime...imp.html

Tribes with greater internal cohesion consistantly prevailed in competition.
bluehigh
2.7 / 5 (7) Sep 10, 2011
Fact is that the majority of people eagerly refuse any "warm and fuzzy feeling" for the sake of their own material and often unethical advantage.


My friends often help each other without asking 'whats in it for me'. I am happy to not know you. Perhaps you are American.
frajo
3 / 5 (4) Sep 11, 2011
Fact is that the majority of people eagerly refuse any "warm and fuzzy feeling" for the sake of their own material and often unethical advantage.

My friends often help each other without asking 'whats in it for me'.
So do mine. And I'd not call anybody my friend who doesn't.

I am happy to not know you. Perhaps you are American.

You are confusing messenger and message.
bluehigh
2 / 5 (4) Sep 11, 2011
Apologies then Frajo. I still live in hope that not all humans are so selfish to need anything (even warm fuzzy feelings) in return for assisting others. Sometimes 'just because i can' is good enough.
an_p
5 / 5 (1) Sep 11, 2011
for those of you not agreeing with that narrow version of human interactions being just selfish, robotic, predictable behavior patterns, like some seem to believe in -i highly recommend this Adam Curtis documentary
http://en.wikiped..._series)
BBC 2007

frajo
1 / 5 (1) Sep 12, 2011
i highly recommend this Adam Curtis documentary
http://en.wikiped..._series)
BBC 2007

Thanks a lot. Never heard of it before; highly interesting. Now I understand ryggesogn2 and his ilk. :)
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (12) Sep 13, 2011
Apologies then Frajo. I still live in hope that not all humans are so selfish to need anything (even warm fuzzy feelings) in return for assisting others. Sometimes 'just because i can' is good enough.
Sorry pseudo-Xian, assisting perceived enemies is suicidal and pathological. Making the world more peaceful means understanding this entire equation and trying to eliminate the reasons some groups/tribes are in conflict with others... rather than wishing it were not so and acting as if it weren't.

Pretending doesn't solve problems other than the trouble of discomfort. Ignoring conflict does not resolve it. It only makes it a bigger problem for you or others.
Now I understand ryggesogn2 and his ilk. :)
Even St. Frajo has enemies. See how he uses the prejudicial word 'ilk' with a smiley face afterward? This is a typical religionist sentiment. Religion subsists on the 'us vs them' perception.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.9 / 5 (11) Sep 13, 2011
Even St. Frajo has enemies. See how he uses the prejudicial word 'ilk' with a smiley face afterward? This is a typical religionist sentiment. Religion subsists on the 'us vs them' perception.
It is also typical of tribalists, team-builders. Team-builders tolerate nonsense in order to assemble teams of mutual up-raters, rather than judging supporters on individual merits. This exacerbates conflict.

Frajo seeks to create the very mechanism which makes conflict resolution impossible; tribalism.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Sep 13, 2011
for those of you not agreeing with that narrow version of human interactions being just selfish, robotic, predictable behavior patterns,

It really depends on what one defines as selfish. Does selfish mean anything that is done out of preference? Then yes: in that case altruism is selfish (even sacrificing oneself could then be said to be motivated by a preference over the perceived alternative)

Of course then there is also totally random behavior. I like the concept of "acts of random kindness" in which you just go out and do some random good deed to some random person - just for the hell of it.
(OK, if you want to be pedantic about it then that, too, is selfish because I just love the confused look on people's faces whenever I do it.)

If selfish just means 'for personal gain' then that, too, must be examnied closely. 'Gain' is not restricted to 'material gain'.
an_p
not rated yet Sep 14, 2011

It really depends on what one defines as selfish. Does selfish mean anything that is done out of preference? Then yes: in that case altruism is selfish (even sacrificing oneself could then be said to be motivated by a preference over the perceived alternative)

i agree, the definition of the the term 'selfish' is really the crux of the matter. it is a human definition that we are dealing with here. this topic is of course highly controversial, and it should be! does the term egoistic or selfish do any justice to the complex reality of living organisms or systems, and if so is the selfish action taken, really taken for ones own preference or for the preference of the whole species / system. And at what level of the system should we look when defining that preference? is the individual a closed system or is it part of a greater system? i do not want to sound esoteric here! i just think it is very important to look at the individual while not ignoring the bigger picture.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (12) Sep 14, 2011
I think you are being selfish by not bothering to use proper punctuation and capitalization, and paragraphs, thereby making your posts harder to read just because you see some value in a pointless affectation.

Try reading 'The Selfish Gene' by Dawkins for info on the genetic imperative.
http://en.wikiped...ish_Gene
bluehigh
1 / 5 (2) Sep 14, 2011
thereby making your posts harder to read just because ..


Its late, I'm tired and stumbled across your nonsense Otto, quite by chance. I can only surmise that you are a warmonger that rejects compromise and finding common ground. A sharp edged cricket bat into your head might help (it would help me feel better).
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (12) Sep 14, 2011
your nonsense Otto A sharp edged cricket bat into your head might help (it would help me feel better).
You saw Inglourious Basterds?

You seem pretty violent yourself. But then, violence against outsiders is not really a bad thing is it? It doesnt FEEL bad. And peaceniks get very perturbed when nirvana gets interrupted by a little harsh reality dont they? Hard to chant with the 6:00 news on tv isnt it?
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (12) Sep 14, 2011
Ranging groups of mutual buttrubbers make otto a little sick.

The article actually does touch on the tribal dynamic of internal altruism in conjunction with external hostility.

"The book's authors argue that humans are naturally cooperative, altruistic and social, only reverting to violence when stressed, abused, neglected or mentally ill."

-The human condition has always been a condition of stress. Pop pressure is what forces life to inhabit new niches and evolve to suit. It naturally creates competition for resources.

Humans only made this far worse by eliminating those natural elements which kept their numbers in check. They were only left with themselves as competition, driven by a reproductive rate which did not have time to adjust accordingly.

Humans learned to defend themselves and their families by forming into groups, as many other species do. The groups with greater internal cohesion coupled with external animosity consistantly fared better in competition.
cont
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (12) Sep 14, 2011
This is how humans mitigate stress. They develop strong bonds within their groups based on mutual trust, cooperation, and assistance. They ALSO protect the group together against competition from others outside the group.

One observes these traits among members of ranging mutual buttrubber groups, who enjoy pouncing on interlopers and threatening them with cricket bats. Very educational.

See its not your particular dogma that is worth fighting for, it is the comraderie and esprit de corps which gives you all such a thrill isnt it bluehigh? Frajo?
emsquared
1 / 5 (2) Sep 14, 2011
My friends often help each other without asking 'whats in it for me'. I am happy to not know you. Perhaps you are American.

Yeah, fuck the Americans! Giving out more developmental aid than any other nation in the world! What a bunch of assholes!!

Wait... you sure it's not the corrupt governments that receive this aid and then stick it in their pockets instead of using it to help their people that you're mad at?
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (12) Sep 14, 2011
Yeah, fuck ...assholes!!
I believe you have the wrong forum sir.
emsquared
1 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2011
LOL, report it then. I'm sure you already have.

But if you find that more offensive then the not even thinly veiled hate speech that goes on around here, well... I guess I already knew things are in sad shape.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (11) Sep 14, 2011
Nono you misunderstood. I suggest a forum like this:
http://en.wikiped...ay_Forum

-Perhaps your allusion is unconscious-
emsquared
1 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2011
Ah, I see what you did there...

Freudian tip, I guess, hm?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (10) Sep 14, 2011
pwned
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2011
Giving out more developmental aid than any other nation in the world!

If you mean total: yes

if you mean by any other measure:
- per capita
- percentage of GDP
- in relation to military expenditure (which can be argued to be 'negative' foreign aid)

... then the US doesn't even make the top 20.

The UN target is 0.7% of GDP (only 5 nations actually do that or better: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Luxembourg).
Average of the top 22 nations is .45% of GDP.
The US ranks 22nd on that list with 0.19%

...and 76% of the foreign Aid from the US didn't even come from the people (i.e. via governement programs originating as taxpayer dollars) but from donations by wealthy individuals.

So there's really not much basis for saying that 'Americans' are the most generous in the world - quite the opposite.
emsquared
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2011
If you mean total: yes

That is what I said.
The UN target is 0.7% of GDP

A lovely sentiment coming from an organization that generates no income of it's own, other than what countries voluntarily give it. And let's not forget that the US funds just about one quarter of the UN's finances (and it used to be fully 1/4). Funny how things work, huh?
76% of the foreign Aid from the US didn't even come from the people (i.e. via governement programs originating as taxpayer dollars) but from donations by wealthy individuals.

Actually the ODA statistic I was talking about doesn't count private donations. And anyway, how does this do anything to justify anti-american sentiments? Shouldn't people be comforted by the fact that the constituents generally aren't as heartless as their government?
So there's really not much basis for saying that 'Americans' are the most generous in the world

Good thing I didn't say that then, huh?
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Sep 15, 2011
. And let's not forget that the US funds just about one quarter of the UN's finances

22%. And they got THAT deal after basically not paying anything for two decades in which they were supposed to pay 26%.

But it doesn't change the numbers on foreign aid one bit: The US is pretty lame when it comes to sharing its wealth. It even ranks behind Portugal and Greece (or New Zealand).

Without the private donations it doesn't even hold the top spot by volume.

And anyway, how does this do anything to justify anti-american sentiments?

It doesn't . Just pointing out the obvious that one should take a good, hard look before spouting sentiments like "Giving out more developmental aid than any other nation in the world!". Might be that you're making yourself a bit of a laughing stock because the mock-sarcasm is not so far from reality. The US is not putting in its share - by long shot.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (10) Sep 15, 2011
But it doesn't change the numbers on foreign aid one bit: The US is pretty lame when it comes to sharing its wealth. It even ranks behind Portugal and Greece
Aren't these 2 countries close to default? See where altruism toward strangers gets you? At least the US expects some allegiance in return for it's charity. Like the church.
But if you find that more offensive then the not even thinly veiled hate speech that goes on around here, well...
Like your sophomoric anti-Americanism? Your distortion and misrepresention in support of it is pretty offensive. Sir.

Where ya from anyways? So's we can do some comparing and reciprocal dissing?
emsquared
3 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2011
Just pointing out the obvious that one should take a good, hard look before spouting sentiments like "Giving out more developmental aid than any other nation in the world!".

And I was just pointing out the obvious that people love to hate on the US based on disingenuous premises.

Where's Japan (3rd largest economy) and China (2nd economy) in this "sharing" discussion? Hmm, Japan is right where the US is (or worse) and China is no where to be seen at all. Germany and UK (5 & 6) hang out in the middle, is that their share?? And a gold star to India (4th), for their 15M.

I'll be the first to admit, in any discussion, that we have done some really crappy crap (see: imperialist exploitation, etc.), and continue to, but Europe is no less culpable, the UK, the Dutch, the Spanish, everyone, and the rest often don't support even basic freedoms of speech or human equality. Sorry, if I'm inclined to tell you to eat a big fat bag of dates.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 16, 2011
Where's Japan (3rd largest economy) and China (2nd economy) in this "sharing" discussion? Hmm, Japan is right where the US is (or worse) and China is no where to be seen at all. Germany and UK (5 & 6) hang out in the middle, is that their share?? And a gold star to India (4th), for their 15M.

This seems to be a standard smokescreen: "X is bad. But Y and Z are also not quite as good as they could be so it's perfectly OK for X to be bad"

Sorry, I can't follow that sort of logic at all (unless you had claimed that Y and Z were also great in the first place)

and the rest often don't support even basic freedoms of speech or human equality.

Then there's the niggling detail of 'supporting' such things and the reality of it.
PR about 'fighting for democracy' is nice and all - but when one looks at what types of regimes result and are supported -and all you see are dictatorships - one needs to start thinking about whetehr one should believe in the PR or not.
an_p
5 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2011
I think you are being selfish by not bothering to use proper punctuation and capitalization, and paragraphs, thereby making your posts harder to read just because you see some value in a pointless affectation.


huh? - mental caveman doing the punctuation police.
hate to inform you that about 80% of internet users are non native english speakers. (frightening i know) heres a tip: breath deeply and get over it!
rawa1
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 16, 2011
Don't forget to your very cooperative, altruistic and social nature, guys...
emsquared
3 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2011
Sorry, I can't follow that sort of logic at all (unless you had claimed that Y and Z were also great in the first place)

Good thing I didn't use that logic then, huh?

Again, what I DID say is that people are anti-American for reasons that are perpetrated by every other major world player (many of those guilty of worse) but the US gets all the hate. It's wholly disingenuous and indicates that that hate stems not from those reasons people use as their excuse to justify their hate.
Perhaps you are American.

Back to the original issue for a second...

How many Americans do you know (not from TV)? My fiance' and I had 2 friends (a German and her boyfriend from Malta, both living in London) visit a month ago and they marveled time and again at how helpful and friendly Americans are (in a city of about 3 million), that people would make eye contact smile and nod at them without knowing them, and would walk a block with them out of their way to point them in the right direction.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2011
Again, what I DID say is that people are anti-American

Maybe you jsut need to get off the 'peopel are anti-american' wagon?
Maybe people just *seem* anti-american to you because every time someone says "america ...woot...numer 1" they just present the plain facs: that apart from anything military america isn't number one in anything? Least of all 'civil freedom', 'democracy', 'freedom of speech', and anything else you care to name that might be termed as worthy as a measure of being a 'great' country.
frajo
1 / 5 (1) Sep 17, 2011
Again, what I DID say is that people are anti-American for reasons that are perpetrated by every other major world player (many of those guilty of worse) but the US gets all the hate. It's wholly disingenuous and indicates that that hate stems not from those reasons people use as their excuse to justify their hate.
You are simplifying things. A person who expresses her disenchantment with certain aspects of the US is not obliged to counterbalance her criticism with the positive aspects or with permanently mentioning lighthouses like Angela Davis or Noam Chomsky. Criticism is benign, defaming is hostile.

Apart from that there are lots of people out there who have lost innocent family members by military actions of the US plus allies. Their hate is a natural reaction that is prolonged by the stubborn refusal to apologize.

And no, natural hate does not aim solely at the US. But you'd have to access non-US media to get a realistic impression of tensions abroad.
Skultch
not rated yet Sep 18, 2011
Frajo - Nobody is obliged to do anything, but if they want future opinions respected, they will exhibit some appropriate balance. Also, your victim hypothetical is changing/expanding the subject of altruism or lack thereof. I thought you guys were talking about the actor, not the ones that respond to altruism/selfishness.

The US gives. A LOT! That's all emsquared said. You guys aren't really having a reasoned debate here, it seems. It sure seems like the responses to em were all trying to expand the subject in order to have an opportunity to highlight the negatives of US foreign actions. No one likes to talk about the good things bad people/groups do. It's no different than someone reacting to someone who points out how much good a child molester did in his life. I guess some people need things to be dualistic and simple to reduce internal stress. I don't know.
Skultch
not rated yet Sep 18, 2011
Of course individuals and groups are both altruistic and selfish. Of COURSE we all benefit from altruism. I might define altruism as where the person(s) who *most* benefit from the action are *not* the person(s) who commit the action.

We're selfish for genetic survival, and altruistic when we can be, because that gives long term benefits in the form of complex feedback mechanisms that most can see play out over long duration. Does there need to be more to it than that? ??????????
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.9 / 5 (11) Sep 18, 2011
Apart from that there are lots of people out there who have lost innocent family members by military actions of the US plus allies. Their hate is a natural reaction that is prolonged by the stubborn refusal to apologize.
And frajo does not care whether these lives were unavoidably lost in the process of saving far more.

And frajo fails to place the blame where it properly lies - with the enemy who caused the conflict in the first place.

Frajos opinions originate in irrational hatred of authority. Frajos comments are defamatory and hostile to say the least. Frajos opinions have nothing to do with reality.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (10) Sep 18, 2011
Frajo thinks that no one should have helped bosnians who were being murdered in the 10s of 1000s by Serbs because innocent lives were unavoidably lost.

Frajo thinks that western forces shouldn't have helped libyan freedom fighters because innocent lives were unavoidably lost.

Frajo thinks that Nazis should have remained unopposed because foreign forces had to invade the continent and innocent lives were unavoidably lost. I suppose even Alexander was remiss in defeating the Persians on their own ground?

Frajo is blind, deaf, and exceedingly dumb.
emsquared
3 / 5 (2) Sep 19, 2011
Maybe people just *seem* anti-american to you because every time someone says "america ...woot...numer 1" they just present the plain facs: [insert anti-americansim here]

See but that's not what happens, here. Ever.

Who says that? No one. If someone said "America is #1" at something that they weren't, most of the Americans on physorg would be among the first to say, "Actually...".

This isn't what happened above, and it isn't what happens 99% of the time on this site (or anywhere) when people take any excuse to spread ill will against the US, or outright say Americans are evil, Americans dying is a good thing, etc. that are seemingly accepted parts of the rhetoric here.

You say that about any other "group" (race, nation, etc.) at all and people come out of the wood work (including Americans) to say that's not acceptable.

And not to burst your bubble, while trends indicate it may not be for long, US is presently still the largest economy and #1 FDI received country. ;)