Skip to main content
×
×
Home

The Foundations of Human Cooperation in Teaching and Imitation

  • Kevin N. Laland (a1)
Abstract

Humans exhibit extensive large-scale cooperation, of a form unprecedented in the natural world. Here I suggest that this cooperation arises in our species alone because of our uniquely potent capacities for social learning, imitation and teaching, combined with the co-evolutionary feedbacks that these capabilities have generated on the human mind. Culture took human populations down evolutionary pathways not available to non-cultural species, either by creating conditions that promoted established cooperative mechanisms, such as indirect reciprocity and mutualism, or by generating novel cooperative mechanisms not seen in other taxa, such as cultural group selection. In the process, gene-culture co-evolution seemingly generated an evolved psychology, comprising an enhanced ability and motivation to learn, teach, communicate through language, imitate and emulate, as well as predispositions to docility, social tolerance, and the sharing of goals, intentions and attention. This evolved psychology is entirely different from that observed in any other animal, or that could have evolved through conventional selection on genes alone.

Copyright
Corresponding author
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kevin N. Laland. Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution. School of Biology. University of St Andrews. Harold Mitchell Building. St Andrews. Fife (UK). KY16 9TH. E-mail: knl1@st-andrews.ac.uk
References
Hide All
Alexander, R. D. (1987). The biology of moral systems. New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.
Bell, A. V., Richerson, P. J., & McElreath, R. (2009). Culture rather than genes provides greater scope for the evolution of large-scale human prosociality. Proceeding of the National Academic of Science, 106, 1767117674. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0903232106
Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. J. (1985). Culture and the evolutionary process. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.
Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. J. (1992). Punishment allows the evolution of cooperation (or anything else) in sizable groups. Ethology and Sociobiology, 13, 171195. https://doi.org/10.1016/0162-3095(92)90032-Y
Brosnan, S. F., Wilson, B. J., & Beran, M. J. (2012). Old world monkeys are more like humans than New World monkeys when playing a coordination game. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 279, 15221530.
Byrne, R. W. (1994). The evolution of intelligence. In Slater, P. J. B. & Halliday, T. R. (Eds.), Behaviour and evolution (pp. 223265). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Call, J., & Tomasello, M. (1998). Distinguishing intentional from accidental actions in orangutans Pongo pygmaeus, chimpanzees (Pan-troglodytes) and human children (Homo sapiens). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 112, 192206. https://doi.org/10.1037/0735-7036.112.2.192
Call, J., & Tomasello, M. (2008). Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? 30 years later. Trends in Cognitive Science, 12, 187192. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2008.02.010
Call, J., Hare, B., Carpenter, M., & Tomasello, M. (2004). ‘Unwilling’ versus ‘unable’: Chimpanzees’ understanding of human intentional action. Developmental Science, 7, 488498.
Caro, T. M., & Hauser, M. D. (1992). Is there teaching in nonhuman animals? The Quarterly Review of Biology, 67, 151174. https://doi.org/10.1086/417553
Castro, L., & Toro, M. A. (2004). The evolution of culture: From primate social learning to human culture. Proceeding of the National Academic of Science, 101, 1023510240. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0400156101
Carpenter, M., Uebel, J., & Tomasello, M. (2013). Being mimicked increases prosocial behaviour in 18- month-old infants. Child Development 84, 15111518.
Chartrand, T. L., & Bargh, J. A. (1999). The chameleon effect: The perception-behavior link and social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 766, 893910. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.76.6.893
Chartrand, T. L., & van Baaren, R. (2009). Human mimicry. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 219274.
Chudek, M., & Henrich, J. (2011). Culture-gene coevolution, norm psychology and the emergence of human prosociality. Trends in Cognitive Science, 15, 218226. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2011.03.003
Cooper, R. W. (1999). Coordination games: Complementarities and macroeconomics. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Csibra, G. (2010). Recognizing communicative intentions in infancy. Mind & Language, 25, 141168. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0017.2009.01384.x
Fehr, E., & Fischbacher, U. (2003). The nature of human altruism. Nature 425, 785791. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02043
Fehr, E., & Gachter, S. (2002). Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature 415, 137140. https://doi.org/10.1038/415137a
Fogarty, L., Strimling, P., & Laland, K. N. (2011). The evolution of teaching. Evolution, 65, 27602770. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1558-5646.2011.01370.x
Gergely, G., & Csibra, G. (2005). The social construction of the cultural mind: Imitative learning as a mechanism of human pedagogy. Interaction Studies, 6, 463481.
Gergely, G., Egyed, K., & Király, I. (2007). On pedagogy. Developmental Science, 10, 139146. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00576.x
Gintis, H. (2003). The hitchhiker’s guide to altruism: Gene-culture coevolution, and the internalization of norms. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 220, 407418. https://doi.org/10.1006/jtbi.2003.3104
Haun, D. B. M., Rekers, Y., & Tomasello, M. (2012). Majority-biased transmission in chimpanzees and human children, but not orangutans. Current Biology, 22, 727731. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2012.03.006
Henrich, J. (2004a). Demography and cultural evolution: Why adaptive cultural processes produced maladaptive losses in Tasmania. American Antiquity, 69, 197221.
Henrich, J. (2004b). Cultural group selection, coevolutionary processes and large-scale cooperation. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 53, 335. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0167-2681(03)00094-5
Henrich, J. (2015). The secret of our success . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Henrich, J., & Boyd, R. (1998). The evolution of conformist transmission and between-group differences. Evolution and Human Behavior, 19, 215242. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1090-5138(98)00018-X
Herrman, P. A., Legare, C. H., Harris, P. L., & Whitehouse, H. (2013). Stick to the script: The effect of witnessing multiple actors on children’s imitation. Cognition, 129, 536543. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2013.08.010
Heyes, C. M. (2005). Imitation by association. In Hurley, S. & Chater, N. (Eds.), Perspectives on imitation: From mirror neurons to memes (pp. 157176). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Heyes, C. M. (2012). What can imitation do for cooperation? In Calcott, B., Joyce, R., & Sterelny, K. (Eds.), Signalling, commitment & cooperation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Hill, K. R., Walker, R. S., Božičević, M., Eder, J., Headland, T., Hewllett, B., … Wood, B. (2011). Co-residence patterns in hunter-gatherer societies show unique human social structure. Science, 331, 12861289. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1199071
Hoppitt, W., & Laland, K. N. (2008). Social processes influencing learning in animals: A review of the evidence. Advances in the Study of Behavior, 38, 105165. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-3454(08)00003-X
Hoppitt, W., & Laland, K. N. (2011). Detecting social learning using networks: A user’s guide. American Journal of Primatology, 73, 834844. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajp.20920
Kinzler, K. D., Shutts, K., DeJesus, J., & Spelke, E. S. (2009). Accent trumps race in guiding children’s social preferences. Social Cognition, 27, 623634.
Kline, M. A., Boyd, R., & Henrich, J. (2013). Teaching and the life history of cultural transmission in Fijian villages. Human Nature, 24, 351374. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-013-9180-1
Laland, K. N. (2017). Darwin’s unfinished symphony: How culture made the human mind. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Laland, K. N., & Bateson, P. P. G. (2001). The mechanisms of imitation. Cybernetics & Systems, 32, 195224.
Laland, K. N., Odling-Smee, J., & Myles, S. (2010). How culture shaped the human genome: Bringing genetics and the human sciences together. Nature Reviews Genetic, 11, 137148. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrg2734
Likowski, , et al. in Heyes C 2012. What can imitation do for cooperation? In Calcott, B., Joyce, R., & Sterelny, K. (Eds.), Signalling, commitment & cooperation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Marino, L. (2006). Absolute brain size: Did we throw the baby out with the bathwater? Proceeding of the National Academic of Science, 103, 1356313564. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0606337103
Morgan, T. J. H., Rendell, L. E., Ehn, M., Hoppitt, W., & Laland, K. N. (2012). The evolutionary basis of human social learning. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 279, 653662. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2011.1172
Nicol, C. J., & Pope, S. J. (1996). The maternal feeding display of domestic hens is sensitive to perceived chick error. Animal Behaviour, 52, 767774. https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.1996.0221
Nowak, M., & Highfield, R. (2011). Super-cooperators: The mathematics of evolution, altruism and human behaviour or why we need each other to succeed. London, UK: Canongate.
Nowak, M. A., & Sigmund, K. (1998). Evolution of indirect reciprocity by image scoring. Nature, 393, 573577. https://doi.org/10.1038/31225
Pawlby, S. J. (1977). Imitative interaction. In Scaffer, H. (Ed.), Studies in mother-infant interaction (pp. 203224). New York, NY: Academic.
Richerson, P. J., & Boyd, R. (1998). The evolution of human ultrasociality. In Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. & Salter, F. K. (Eds.), Indoctrinability, ideology, and warfare; evolutionary perspectives (pp. 7195). New York, NY: Berghahn Books.
Richerson, P. J., & Boyd, R. (2005). Not by genes alone: How culture transformed human evolution. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Richerson, P. J., & Henrich, J. (2012). Tribal social instincts and the cultural evolution of institutions to solve collective action problems. Cliodynamics, 3, 3880. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1368756
Richerson, P., Baldini, R., Bell, A. V., Demps, K., Frost, K., Hillis, V., … Zefferman, M. (2014). Cultural group selection plays an essential role in explaining human cooperation: A sketch of the evidence. Behavioral Brain Science, 39, 171. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X1400106X
Ridley, M. (2011). The rational optimist. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Rose, M. R., & Lauder, G. V. (1996). Adaptation. San Diego, CA: Academic.
Somel, M., Rohlfs, R., & Liu, X. (2014). Transcriptomic insights into human brain evolution: Acceleration, neutrality, heterochrony. Current Opinion in Genetic & Development, 29, 110119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gde.2014.09.001
Stel, M., Blascovich, J., McCall, C., Mastop, J., Van Baaren, R. B., & Vonk, R. (2010). Mimicking disliked others: Effects of a priori liking on the mimicry-liking link. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 867880.
Sterelny, K. (2012). The evolved apprentice. Cambridge, MA: MIT.
Striedter, G. F. (2005). Principles of brain evolution. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer.
Tanner, R. J., Ferraro, R., Chartrand, T. L., Bettman, J. R., & van Baaren, R. (2008). Of chameleons and consumption: The impact of mimicry on choice and preferences. Journal of Consumer Research, 34, 754766. https://doi.org/10.1086/522322
Tarr, B., Launay, J., & Dunbar, R. I. M. (2014). Music and social bonding: ‘Self-other’ merging and neuorhormonal mechanisms. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1096. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01096
Tennie, C., Call, J., & Tomasello, M. (2009). Ratcheting up the ratchet: On the evolution of cumulative culture. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Societ B, 364, 24052415. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2009.0052
Thornton, A., & McAuliffe, K. (2006). Teaching in wild meerkats. Science, 313, 227229. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1128727
Tomasello, M. (1999). The cultural origins of human cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Tomasello, M. (2008). Origins of human communication. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Tomasello, M. (2010). Human culture in evolutionary perspective. In Gelfand, M. J., Chui, C., & Hong, Y. (Eds.), Advances in culture and psychology. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Tomasello, M., Hare, B., Lehmann, H., & Call, J. (2007). Reliance on head versus eyes in the gaze following of great apes and human infants: The cooperative eye hypothesis. Journal of Human Evolution, 52, 314320. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2006.10.001
Trivers, R. L. (1971). The evolution of reciprocal altruism. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 46, 3557. https://doi.org/10.1086/406755
van Baaren, R. B., Holland, R. W., Kawakami, K., & van Knippenberg, A. (2004). Mimicry and prosocial behavior. Psychological Science, 15, 7174. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0963-7214.2004.01501012.x
van Baaren, R., Janssen, L., Chartrand, T. L., & Dijksterhuis, A. (2009). Where is the love? The social aspects of mimicry. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Societ B, 364, 23812389. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2009.0057
van Schaik, C. P., & Burkart, J. M. (2011). Social learning and evolution: The cultural intelligence hypothesis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Societ B, 366, 10081016. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0304
van Swol, L. M. (2003). The effects of nonverbal mirroring on perceived persuasiveness, agreement with an imitator, and reciprocity in a group discussion. Communication Research, 304, 461480. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650203253318
Wen, N., Herrman, P. A., & Legare, C. H. (2016). Ritual increases children’s affiliation with in-group members. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 37, 5460.
West, S. A., Griffin, A. S., & Gardner, A. (2007). Social semantics: Altruism, cooperation, mutualism, strong reciprocity and group selection. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 20, 415432. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1420-9101.2006.01258.x
West, S. A., El Mouden, C., & Gardner, A. (2011). Sixteen common misconceptions about the evolution of cooperation in humans. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 32, 231262. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.08.001
Yabar, Y., Johnston, L., Miles, L., & Peace, V. (2006). Implicit behavioral mimicry: Investigating the impact of group membership. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 30, 97113. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-006-0010-6
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Spanish Journal of Psychology
  • ISSN: 1138-7416
  • EISSN: 1988-2904
  • URL: /core/journals/spanish-journal-of-psychology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed