Oliver Scott Curry

Oliver Scott Curry
University of Oxford | OX · Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology (ICEA)

BSC (Econ); MSc; Phd

About

52
Publications
176,161
Reads
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1,347
Citations
Introduction
Oliver Scott Curry's Ph.D. argued that morality could be seen as the product of a suite of 'adaptations for cooperation' that evolved to solve the problems of cooperation and conflict recurrent in the lives of our ancestors. He is currently working on a cross-cultural survey of moral values, and developing a new self-report measure of moral values.
Additional affiliations
June 2008 - present
University of Oxford
Position
  • Lecturer
July 2005 - June 2006
Indiana University Bloomington
Position
  • PostDoc Position
January 2000 - present
The London School of Economics and Political Science
Position
  • Research Associate

Publications

Publications (52)
Article
Full-text available
The world faces serious environmental problems. To solve them we must work together. Fortunately, humans are a very cooperative species. We have faced a range of cooperative problems in the past, and have evolved and invented a range of cooperative solutions to them—kin altruism, mutualism, reciprocity, heroism, deference, fairness, and property ri...
Preprint
Full-text available
Morality-as-Cooperation (MAC) is the theory that morality is a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation recurrent in human social life. MAC uses game theory to identify distinct types of cooperation, and predicts that each will be considered morally relevant, and each will give rise to a distinct moral domain....
Article
Full-text available
Some acts of human cooperation are not easily explained by traditional models of kinship or reciprocity. Fitness interdependence may provide a unifying conceptual framework, in which cooperation arises from the mutual dependence for survival or reproduction, as occurs among mates, risk-pooling partnerships and brothers-in-arms.
Preprint
What explains the content and structure of human morality? The theory of Morality-as-Cooperation (MAC) argues that morality is a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation recurrent in human social life. Using evolutionary biology and nonzerosum game theory, MAC identifies an initial list of seven distinct types...
Article
Full-text available
Can moments of viral media activity transform into enduring activist movements? The killing of Cecil the lion by a trophy hunter in Zimbabwe in 2015 attracted global attention and generated enduring conservation activism in the form of monetary donations to the research unit that was studying him (WildCRU). Utilizing a longitudinal survey design, w...
Article
Full-text available
This experiment investigates the effects of a seven-day kindness activities intervention on changes in subjective happiness. The study was designed to test whether performing different types of kindness activities had differential effects on happiness. Our recent systematic review and meta-analysis of the psychological effects of kindness (Curry, e...
Article
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Do humans have cognitive adaptations for detecting violations of rules in multiple moral domains? Previous research using the Wason Selection Task has provided evidence for domain-specific mechanisms for detecting violations of social exchange and hazard precaution rules. The present study investigates whether similar evidence can be found for mech...
Article
Full-text available
Do acts of kindness improve the well-being of the actor? Recent advances in the behavioural sciences have provided a number of explanations of human social, cooperative and altruistic behaviour. These theories predict that people will be ‘happy to help’ family, friends, community members, spouses, and even strangers under some conditions. Here we c...
Article
Full-text available
What is morality? What explains its content and structure? And how is it best measured? The theory of Morality-as-Cooperation (MAC) argues that morality is a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation recurrent in human social life. Using evolutionary biology and nonzerosum game theory, MAC identifies seven disti...
Article
Full-text available
Pride occurs in every known culture, appears early in development, is reliably triggered by achievements and formidability, and causes a characteristic display that is recognized everywhere. Here, we evaluate the theory that pride evolved to guide decisions relevant to pursuing actions that enhance valuation and respect for a person in the minds of...
Article
What role did national identity play in Britain's decision to leave the European Union? Previous research has found a negative correlation between national and European identity: people who identify more strongly with their nation identify less strongly with Europe as a whole. This suggests that UK citizens who identify more strongly with the Unite...
Preprint
Do acts of kindness improve the well-being of the actor? Recent advances in the behavioural sciences have provided a number of explanations of human social, cooperative and altruistic behaviour. These theories predict that people will be ‘happy to help’ family, friends, community members, spouses, and even strangers under some conditions. Here we c...
Article
Full-text available
What is morality? And to what extent does it vary around the world? The theory of morality-as-cooperation argues that morality consists of a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation and conflict recurrent in human social life. By using nonzerosum game theory to identify distinct problems of cooperation and thei...
Chapter
Full-text available
What is morality, where does it come from, and how does it work? Scholars have struggled with these questions for millennia. But we now have a scientific answer. The theory of ‘morality as cooperation’ uses the mathematics of cooperation—the theory of nonzero-sum games—to identify the many distinct problems of cooperation and their solutions, and i...
Article
Full-text available
Although laughter is probably of deep evolutionary origin, the telling of jokes, being language-based, is likely to be of more recent origin within the human lineage. In language-based communication, speaker and listener are engaged in a process of mutually understanding each other's intentions (mindstates), with a conversation minimally requiring...
Article
Full-text available
Cooperation requires that individuals are able to identify, and preferentially associate with, others who have compatible preferences and the shared background knowledge needed to solve interpersonal coordination problems. The present study investigates the nature of such similarity within social networks, asking: What do friends have in common? An...
Article
Full-text available
Why and under what conditions are individuals altruistic to family and friends in their social networks? Evolutionary psychology suggests that such behaviour is primarily the product of adaptations for kin- and reciprocal altruism, dependent on the degree of genetic relatedness and exchange of benefits, respectively. For this reason, individuals ar...
Article
Full-text available
Cooperation requires that individuals are able to identify, and preferentially associate with, others who have compatible preferences and the shared background knowledge needed to solve interpersonal coordination problems. This body of shared knowledge constitute a substantial proportion of what is called ‘culture’. It has been argued that, for thi...
Article
Full-text available
Do politically irrelevant events influence important policy opinions? Previous research on social welfare attitudes has emphasized the role of political factors such as economic self-interest and ideology. Here, we demonstrate that attitudes to social welfare are also influenced by short-term fluctuations in hunger. Using theories in evolutionary p...
Article
Full-text available
Abstract How do people solve coordination problems? One possibility is that they use ' Theory of Mind' to generate expectations about others' behaviour. To test this, we investigate whether the ability to solve interpersonal coordination problems is associated with individual differences in ' Theory of Mind' , as measured by a questionnaire address...
Article
If psychopathy is the absence of the cooperative dispositions present in normally-developing individuals, then individuals with higher levels of psychopathic personality traits should exhibit lower levels of cooperation in experimental games. The present study investigated whether Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI) scores were negatively corr...
Article
Full-text available
Why are individuals altruistic to their friends? Theory suggests that individual, relationship and network factors will all influence the levels of altruism; but to date, the effects of social network structure have received relatively little attention. The present study uses a novel correlational design to test the prediction that an individual wi...
Article
Reciprocal altruism involves foregoing an immediate benefit for the sake of a greater long-term reward. It follows that individuals who exhibit a stronger preference for future over immediate rewards should be more disposed to engage in reciprocal altruism – in other words, ‘patient’ people should be more cooperative. The present study tested this...
Article
Full-text available
The adaptationist framework is necessary and sufficient for unifying the social and natural sciences. Gintis’s “beliefs, preferences, and constraints” (BPC) model compares unfavorably to this framework because it lacks criteria for determining special design, incorrectly assumes that standard evolutionary theory predicts individual rationality maxi...
Article
Full-text available
Can a simple equation explain the development of altruism?
Article
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David Hume argued that values are the projections of natural human desires, and that moral values are the projections of desires that aim at the common good of society. Recent developments in game theory, evolutionary biology, animal behaviour and neuroscience explain why humans have such desires, and hence provide support for a Humean approach to...
Article
Full-text available
Putting evolutionary psychology to the test.
Article
Full-text available
What are moral values and where do they come from? David Hume argued that moral values were the product of a range of passions, inherent to human nature, that aim at the common good of society. Recent developments in game theory, evolutionary biology, animal behaviour, psychology and neuroscience suggest that Hume was right to suppose that humans h...
Article
In his recent BJIPR article, Peter Kerr expressed modest ambitions for the role of evolutionary theorising in the social sciences (Kerr 2002). At the very least, he suggests that evolutionary theory can provide useful metaphors for analysing political and institutional change. At the most, he speculates that institutional change might occur in ways...

Questions

Question (1)
Question
I'm currently compiling a list of cross-cultural research that investigates whether and to what extent different cultures find different things morally good & bad (see bit.ly/1pxecxk). Are there any studies that I've overlooked? If so, I'd be very grateful if you could point them out to me. Ideally, I'm looking for empirical / quantitative studies that compare multiple (ie more than two) cultures, but any / all suggestions would be welcome. Any contributions will be acknowledged in the eventual paper. Thank you in advance.

Projects

Project (1)
Project
What is morality? Where does it come from? How does it work? What is it for? And how does it vary around the world? The Oxford Morals Projects seeks to answer these questions, using a combination of techniques from psychology and anthropology. Our working hypothesis, which we call 'morality-as-cooperation', is that morality consists of a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation and conflict recurrent in human social life. This perspective suggests that, because there are many problems of cooperation, and many solutions, there will be many types of morality. And it tells us what they will be. They include: obligations to kin, group loyalty, reciprocity, bravery, deference, fairness and respect for property. We are currently involved in testing this theory, by developing a new self-report measure of moral values, and by conducting a comprehensive cross-cultural survey of moral values. We are seeking funding to continue this work, to arrive at a deeper understanding, and a richer picture, of morality around the globe.