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A Cooperative SpeciesHuman Reciprocity and Its Evolution$
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Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151250

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151250.001.0001

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Ancestral Human Society

Ancestral Human Society

(p.93) 6 Ancestral Human Society
A Cooperative Species

Samuel Bowles

Herbert Gintis

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the notion that humans became cooperative because in our ancestral environments we interacted frequently with the same group of close kin, among whom tit-for-tat and other strategies consistent with reciprocal altruism were sufficient to support cooperative outcomes. To this end, the chapter reviews the available archaeological and ethnographic evidence suggesting that most humans had frequent contact with a substantial number of individuals beyond the immediate family despite the existence of isolated groups. This conclusion is consistent with data on the extent of genetic differentiation among ethnographic foragers. The chapter then considers evidence that ancestral humans engaged in frequent and exceptionally lethal intergroup conflicts, as well as data implying that social order in prestate small-scale societies was sustained by a process of coordinated peer pressures and punishment. It shows that prehistoric human society was a social and natural environment in which group competition could have given rise to altruistic behaviors.

Keywords:   reciprocal altruism, genetic differentiation, foragers, ancestral humans, intergroup conflict, social order, peer pressure, punishment, prehistoric human society, group competition

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