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Putting revenge and forgiveness in an evolutionary context

  • Michael E. McCullough (a1), Robert Kurzban (a2) (a3) and Benjamin A. Tabak (a4)

In this response, we address eight issues concerning our proposal that human minds contain adaptations for revenge and forgiveness. Specifically, we discuss (a) the inferences that are and are not licensed by patterns of contemporary behavioral data in the context of the adaptationist approach; (b) the theoretical pitfalls of conflating proximate and ultimate causation; (c) the role of development in the production of adaptations; (d) the implications of proposing that the brain's cognitive systems are fundamentally computational in nature; (e) our preferred method for considering the role of individual differences in computational systems; (f) applications of our proposal to understanding conflicts between groups; (g) the possible implications of our views for understanding the operation of contemporary criminal justice systems; and (h) the question of whether people ever “genuinely” forgive.

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