Long-term Sabbatical

Emotion and the Evolution of Culture

PI(s): James S Chisholm (University of Western Australia)
Start Date: 1-Jan-2012
End Date: 31-Dec-2012
Keywords: behavior, biomedical, cultural evolution, development, life histories

Why are humans so social? What is the relationship between individual and society? How did culture emerge from nature? Are we any closer to answering anthropology’s foundational questions? I will review recent thinking in game theory, evolutionary biology, affective neuroscience, and attachment theory to answer yes. They have reached striking consensus on the role of emotion, not only in individuals’ desire to belong to groups (for that feeling of “we-ness”), but also how this desire fostered the development and evolution of cognition and culture. Game theory assumes that value exists; evolutionary biology shows that value (fitness) exists in nature and that cooperation can evolve; affective neuroscience shows that value is represented (as emotion or feeling) in the brain; and attachment theory shows how infants’ desire for “we-ness” with their mothers includes the desire to communicate with mothers and extends to groups of others, to symbols of groups, and thus to cultural group selection.