Catalysis Meeting

Synthesizing the Evolutionary and Social Science Approaches to Human Cooperation

PI(s): Lee Cronk (Rutgers University (New Brunswick,NJ))
Beth Leech (Rutgers University)
Start Date: 1-Nov-2012
End Date: 31-Oct-2013
Keywords: behavior, adaptation, cultural evolution, sociality, human evolution

Humans are remarkable organisms for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that we cooperate with each other on scales and in ways not seen in other species. A better understanding of what makes human cooperation possible would have not only intellectual but also practical benefits, enabling us both to encourage cooperation where we wish there were more of it (e.g., in the workplace) and discouraging it in situations where it is not in society’s best interests (e.g., organized crime). Until now, scientists have tended to take one of two broad approaches to explaining human cooperation. Social scientists have examined the culture, organizations, and institutions that make cooperation possible. Evolutionary scientists, in contrast, have focused on the similarities and differences between how humans and nonhumans cooperate and on the individual psychology that underlies cooperation. The focus of this NESCent Catalysis meeting will be the integration of these two approaches into a unified (but not uniform) field of research on human cooperation. Our invitees represent a variety of disciplines, topical interests, and methodological approaches from both the social and evolutionary sciences as well as a range of both junior and senior scholars. Our goal is to have a lively and penetrating series of workshop and plenary discussions on the state of the art in the study of human cooperation that will lead to new collaborations, new research questions and themes, and proposals for NSF Research Coordination Networks and NESCent Working Groups.