Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 559–576 | Cite as

The ontogeny and evolution of human collaboration

  • Brian McLoone
  • Rory Smead


How is the human tendency and ability to collaborate acquired and how did it evolve? This paper explores the ontogeny and evolution of human collaboration using a combination of theoretical and empirical resources. We present a game theoretic model of the evolution of learning in the Stag Hunt game, which predicts the evolution of a built-in cooperative bias. We then survey recent empirical results on the ontogeny of collaboration in humans, which suggest the ability to collaborate is developmentally stable across a range of environments. Lastly, we use an account of innateness developed by Ariew (Philos Sci 63:S19–S27, 1996) and Sober (Routledge encyclopedia of philosophy. Routledge, London, pp 794–797, 1998) to assess the extent that (1) the model predicts the fixation of innate collaboration and (2) the empirical studies show a human’s ability to collaborate to be innate.


Innateness Cooperation Evolution Collaboration Learning Stag Hunt 



We would like to thank Elliott Sober, George Denfield, Jason Leardi, Patrick Forber, Kim Sterelny, Raimo Tuomela and an anonymous referee for helpful comments and feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy and ReligionNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA

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