Cooperation, Altruism, and Human Evolution: Introduction Part I

  • Ian Tattersall
Part of the Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects book series (DIPR, volume 36)


There can be no doubt that Homo sapiens is an unusually cooperative species—in both senses of the adjective, because while all primates are social and thus at least minimally cooperative, H. sapiens is social in a very particular manner. Human beings will patiently endure long, uncomfortable back-of-the-cabin flights in hideously cramped aircraft or stand meekly in long, slow lines at soup kitchens: conditions that would undoubtedly provoke unbridled aggression in any other higher primate. This odd proclivity provokes the question of just what it is about us humans that permits or even obliges us to cooperate (most of the time) in this way, subjugating ourselves to the necessities of public order. Furthermore, whatever that factor may be, when did we acquire it? Answering questions such as these is vital in developing any comprehensive understanding of our species as a biological and social entity; despite the elusiveness not only of the answers but also of the very questions themselves the contributions to this book constitute an important if necessarily preliminary step in the direction of developing such an understanding.


Early Hominid Soup Kitchen Symbolic Cognition Proxy Evidence Hominid Ancestor 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of AnthropologyAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA

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