ChapterPDF Available

Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach


Abstract and Figures

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 it predicts that it is the solutions employed by humans that constitute ‘morality’. Thus, morality turns out to be a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation and conflict recurrent in human social life. This theory generates a comprehensive taxonomy of moral values—a Periodic Table of Ethics—that includes obligations to family, group loyalty, reciprocity, bravery, respect, fairness, and property rights. And because morality as cooperation makes principled predictions about the structure and content of human morality, which can be tested against those of rival theories, it reveals that the study of morality is simply another branch of science.
Content may be subject to copyright.
27© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016
T.K. Shackelford, R.D. Hansen (eds.), The Evolution of Morality,
Evolutionary Psychology, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-19671-8_2
Morality as Cooperation:
A Problem-Centred Approach
Oliver Scott Curry
Your country is under attack and you are preparing to join the fi ght to defend it. Just
then, your mother calls and tells you she is seriously ill and needs your help. Do you
take care of your mother, or do you abandon her to fi ght for your country? You are
a member of a sports team that always loses to a rival team. You have an opportunity
to join that rival team. Do you take it? You borrow £10 from a wealthy friend. The
friend forgets all about it. Do you give him the £10 back? You and another friend are
walking along the street when you spot a £20 note on the ground. You bend down
and pick it up. Do you offer to share it with your friend?
In most people, these scenarios evoke a range of thoughts, feelings, emotions,
and intuitions about what to do, what is the right thing to do, what one ought to
do—what is the moral thing to do. What are these moral thoughts and feelings,
where do they come from, how do they work, and what are they for? Scholars
have struggled with these questions for millennia, and for many people the nature of
morality is so baffl ing that they assume it must have a supernatural origin
(Pew, 2014 ).
The good news is that we now have a scientifi c answer to these questions.
Previous approaches have noticed that morality has something to do with coopera-
tion (see Table 1 ). But now it is possible to use the mathematical theory of
cooperation—the theory of nonzero-sum games—to transform this commonplace
into a precise and comprehensive theory, capable of making specifi c testable predic-
tions about the nature of morality.
In this chapter, I use game theory to identify the fundamental problems of human
social life, and show how—in principle and in practice—they are solved. I argue
O. S. Curry (*)
Institute of Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford ,
64 Banbury Road , Oxford OX2 6PN , UK
Table 1 Some previous views of morality and cooperation
Aristotle Justice is ‘what is for the benefi t of the whole community’ or ‘to the
common advantage’ (Aristotle,
1992 , p. 207, 1160a10-14)
St. Augustine Human law consists of ‘an ordered concord of civic obedience and rule in
order to secure a kind of co-operation of men’s wills for the sake of
attaining the things which belong to this mortal life’ (Augustine,
1998 ,
p. 945)
Thomas Aquinas ‘If then a group of free men is directed by a rule to the common good of the
group, his government will be right and just …’ (Aquinas,
1988 , pp. 15–16)
David Hume Moral passions promote the ‘public interest’, the ‘public good’, a ‘common
end’, ‘the general interests of society’, and ‘the good of mankind’ (Hume,
1739/1985 , p. 532, p. 580, p. 590, p. 620, p. 628)
Bishop Joseph
‘That mankind is a community, that we all stand in a relation to each other,
that there is a public end and interest of society which each particular is
obliged to promote, is the sum of morals’ (Butler,
1856 , IX)
Bertrand Russell ‘[M]en’s desires confl ict, and ‘good’ is, to my mind, mainly a social
concept, designed to fi nd issue from this confl ict’ (Russell,
1927 , p. 230)
Henry Hazlitt ‘Social cooperation is the foremost means by which the majority of us
attain most of our ends. It is on the implicit if not the explicit recognition of
this that our codes of morals, our rules of conduct, are ultimately based.
‘Justice’ itself … consists in observance of the rules or principles that do
most, in the long run, to preserve and promote social cooperation’ (Hazlitt,
1964 )
John Rawls ‘The circumstances of justice may be described as the normal conditions
under which human cooperation is both possible and necessary’ (Rawls,
1971 , p. 126)
John Mackie ‘Protagoras, Hobbes, Hume and Warnock are all at least broadly in
agreement about the problem that morality is needed to solve: limited
resources and limited sympathies together generate both competition
leading to confl ict and an absence of what would be mutually benefi cial
cooperation’ (Mackie,
1977 , p. 111)
David Wong ‘Human beings have needs to resolve internal confl icts between
requirements and to resolve interpersonal confl icts of interest. Morality is a
social creation that evolved in response to these needs’ (Wong,
1984 ,
p. 175)
Daniel Hausman
and Michael
‘[T]he normative principles governing individual interactions are human
contrivances to adjudicate confl icts of interest and to secure the benefi ts of
cooperation’ (Hausman & McPherson,
1996 , p. 186)
Jonathan Haidt ‘Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices,
identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological
mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfi shness and make
cooperative social life possible’ (Haidt & Kesebir,
2010 )
Alan Fiske ‘Morality functions to facilitate the generation and maintenance of
long-term social-cooperative relationships with others’ (Rai & Fiske,
2011 )
‘Human morality arose evolutionarily as a set of skills and motives for
cooperating with others’ (Tomasello & Vaish,
2013 )
Joshua Greene ‘[T]he core function of morality is to promote and sustain cooperation’
2015 )
O.S. Curry
that it is the solutions to these problems that philosophers and others have called
‘morality’. Thus, morality turns out to be a collection of biological and cultural
solutions to the problems of cooperation and confl ict recurrent in human social life.
I show how this theory of ‘morality as cooperation’ incorporates the best elements
of previous theories, and moves beyond them to create a principled taxonomy of
moral values of unprecedented depth and breadth. I derive from this theory testable
predictions about the structure and content of moral thought and outline how they
differ from those of rival theories. And I conclude that, because the debate between
these theories can be resolved using standard scientifi c method, the study of moral-
ity has at last become a branch of science. Let’s get started.
A Natural History of Morality
Life begins when molecules start making copies of themselves. These ‘replicators’
are ‘selfi sh’ in the technical sense that they promote their own replication (Dawkins,
1976 /2006). But they can promote their own replication at the expense of other
replicators, or in concert with them (Dawkins, 1998 ). Game theory analyses these
competitive and cooperative interactions as zero-sum and nonzero-sum, respec-
tively (Maynard Smith, 1982 ; Von Neumann & Morgenstern, 1944 ). Competitive
zero-sum interactions have a winner and a loser; one’s gain is another’s loss. But
cooperative nonzero-sum interactions can have two winners; they can be win–win
Natural selection for genes that employ cooperative strategies has driven several
‘major transitions’ in the evolution of life on Earth, including the formation of cells,
chromosomes and multicellular organisms (Maynard Smith & Szathmáry, 1995 ).
Natural selection has also favoured genes for cooperation between individuals, in a
wide variety of species (Dugatkin, 1997 ), including humans. Humans descend from
a long line of social primates; they have spent 50 million years living in social
groups (Shultz, Opie, & Atkinson, 2011 ) and two million years making a living as
intensely collaborative hunter–gatherers (Tooby & DeVore, 1987 ). This has
equipped humans with a range of biological—including psychological—adapta-
tions for cooperation. These adaptations can be seen as natural selection’s attempts
to solve the problems of cooperation. And ever since entering the ‘cognitive niche’
(Boyd, Richerson, & Henrich, 2011 ; Pinker, 2010 ), humans have attempted to
improve upon natural selection’s solutions by inventing evolutionarily novel cul-
tural solutions—‘tools and rules’—for further bolstering cooperation (Binmore,
1994a , 1994b ; Nagel, 1991 ; Popper, 1945 ).
Together, these biological and cultural mechanisms provide both the motivation
for social, cooperative and altruistic behaviour—leading individuals to value and
pursue specifi c mutually benefi cial outcomes—and the standards by which indi-
viduals evaluate the social behaviour of others. And it is precisely these
mechanisms—these solutions to problems of cooperation this collection of instincts,
intuitions, ideas, and institutions that constitute human morality (Curry,
2005 ).
Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach
This theory of morality as cooperation predicts that there will be not one but
many domains of morality. This is because game theory tells us that there is not one
problem of cooperation, but many, and many solutions. And the theory predicts
what these problem- centred domains will be: (1) the allocation of resources to kin;
(2) coordination to mutual advantage; (3) exchange; and (4) confl ict resolution by
means of (a) contests featuring displays of hawkish and dove-ish traits, (b) division,
and (c) possession. Let’s look at each of these problems, how natural selection and
human ingenuity have attempted to solve them, and what predictions this problem-
centred approach makes about human morality.
(1) Kinship
A gene has the potential to infl uence not only its own replication but also the repli-
cation of replicas of itself. In some situations, a gene in one individual can best
promote its replication by diverting resources to copies of itself that reside in other
individuals—that is, in genetic relatives or family members. Genes that benefi t rep-
licas will be favoured by natural selection if the cost of helping is outweighed by the
benefi t to the recipient gene(s) (Dawkins, 1979 ; Hamilton, 1964 ). So, evolutionary
theory leads us to expect that organisms will possess adaptations for detecting and
delivering benefi ts (or avoiding harm) to kin.
And, as expected, numerous species do indeed have adaptations for identifying
(Hepper, 1991 ) and being altruistic to genetic relatives—with parental care and
eusociality among insects being the most widespread and conspicuous examples
(Clutton-Brock, 1991 ; Royle, Smiseth, & Kölliker, 2012 ).
Humans and their recent primate ancestors have always lived in groups com-
posed mostly of genetic relatives, and so they have always faced the problem of
allocating resources to kin (Chapais, 2014 ). Research into adaptations for kin altru-
ism in humans has focussed on kin detection and incest aversion (Lieberman, Tooby,
& Cosmides, 2003 , 2007 ), paternal investment (Geary, 2000 ) and its absence (Daly
& Wilson, 1996 ), and the effects of uncertainty of paternity on paternal and grand-
parental investment (Euler & Weitzel, 1996 ; Gaulin & Schlegel, 1980 ; Platek et al.,
2003 ). Culturally, humans have invented institutions—such as naming conventions
(Oates & Wilson, 2002 ) and inheritance rules (Smith, Kish, & Crawford, 1987 )—to
extend the reach of kin altruism. Behaviourally, kin altruism in humans is evident in
the universality of family structure in human societies, patterns of alliance (Chagnon
& Bugos, 1979 ), and homicide (Daly & Wilson, 1988 ). Humans have also invented
a variety of rules for regulating inbreeding and avoiding incest (Thornhill, 1991 ).
Morality as cooperation predicts that solutions to the problem of effi ciently
allocating resources to kin—such as caring for offspring, helping family members,
and avoiding inbreeding—are component parts of human morality and will be
considered morally good. And there is evidence to suggest that they are.
For example, Edvard Westermarck’s classic cross-cultural survey of ethics
concluded: ‘There is one duty so universal and obvious that it is seldom mentioned:
O.S. Curry
the mother’s duty to rear her children…Another duty…is incumbent on the married
man: the protection and support of his family’ (Westermarck, 1906 ). The anthro-
pologist May Edel and her philosopher husband Abraham Edel concurred: ‘the
moral obligation for a mother to take care of her children…is a universal impera-
tive’ (Edel & Edel, 1959 /1968). And in Confucian ethics, ‘Duty to the family
trumped all other duties’ (Fukuyama, 1996 ). Obligations to family—an ethic of
care, an obligation to distribute goods on the basis of need and relationship, not
abstract rules—also fi gure prominently in some feminist moral philosophy
(Noddings, 1978 ; Ruddick, 1980 ). And ‘the horror of incest is well nigh universal
in the human race’ (Westermarck, 1906 ).
(2) Mutualism
Situations in which individuals benefi t more by working together than they do by
working alone are referred to as mutualisms (Connor, 1995 ). Such mutualisms can
provide economies of scale, effi cient divisions of labour, and strength (or safety) in
numbers. Darwin provides a typically charming example of the benefi ts of team-
work: ‘Hamadryas baboons turn over stones to fi nd insects, &c .; and when they
come to a large one, as many as can stand round, turn it over together and share the
booty’ ( Darwin, 1871 ). Because individuals must coordinate their behaviour in
order to realise these benefi ts, these situations are modelled as coordination prob-
lems (Lewis, 1969 ; Schelling, 1960 )—including ‘stag hunts’ (Skyrms, 2004 ) and
soldier’s dilemmas’ (Clutton-Brock, 2009 )—and the ensuing relationships are
referred to as friendships, alliances, and coalitions (Tooby & Cosmides, 1996 ).
In principle, coordination problems can be solved by focal points and precedence
(‘return to the same breeding grounds each year’), simple decision rules (‘follow the
leader’; Van Vugt, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2008 ), signalling and communication (‘I’m
over here!’), as well as more sophisticated abilities to anticipate and predict others’
behaviour (proto-theory of mind; Whiten, 1996 ). There has been relatively little
empirical work on adaptations for coordination per se (but see Boos, Kolbe,
Kappeler, & Ellwart, 2011 ). However, there is little doubt that many species are able
to solve coordination problems, as evident in the ubiquity of herds, shoals, fl ocks,
and collaborative hunting (Boinski & Garber, 2000 ; Clutton-Brock, 2009 ), as well
as the formation of alliances and coalitions (Bissonnette et al., 2015 ; Harcourt & de
Waal, 1992 ).
The problem of coordinating to mutual advantage has been a recurrent feature of
the social lives of humans and their recent ancestors, especially with regard to col-
laborative hunting (Alvard, 2001 ; Alvard & Nolin, 2002 ) and forming coalitions to
compete with rival coalitions (Wrangham, 1999 ). Research on adaptations for
mutualism and coordination in humans has focussed on coalitionary psychology
(Kurzban, Tooby, & Cosmides, 2001 ; Tooby & Cosmides, 2010 ), adaptations for
representing common knowledge (Thomas, DeScioli, Haque, & Pinker,
2014 ), and
‘theory of mind’ (Curry & Jones Chesters, 2012 ; Tomasello, Carpenter, Call, Behne,
Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach
& Moll, 2005 ; Young, Camprodon, Hauser, Pascual-Leone, & Saxe, 2010 ). Theory
of mind, in particular, seems to have taken human cooperation to new heights. This
ability allows us to think about what others are thinking; to infer their desires,
beliefs, and intentions; and to factor these into our judgments of their conduct—
distinguishing, for example, between intentional and accidental harms. Theory of
mind also seems to play a central role in the formation of conventions and other
‘social constructions’ that can be used to solve an indefi nite array of novel coordina-
tion problems (Berger & Luckmann, 1966 ). Culturally, humans have enhanced their
ability to coordinate their behaviour by means of maps, clocks, calendars and com-
munication technology, and badges of membership. Behaviourally, mutualism is
apparent in the widespread and spontaneous tendency of humans to form groups
and to benefi t those groups at the expense of others (Balliet, Wu, & De Dreu, 2014 ;
Sherif, Harvey, White, Hood, & Sherif, 1954/1961 ; Tajfel, 1970 ).
Morality as cooperation predicts that solutions to the problems of mutualism—
such as forming friendships, participating in collaborative endeavours, favouring
your own group, and adopting local conventions—are component parts of human
morality and will be considered morally good. There is evidence to suggest that
they are.
Aristotle devoted two books of his Nichomachean Ethics to friendship (Aristotle,
1962 ); for Cicero, friendship was ‘the noblest and most delightful of all the gifts the
gods have given mankind’ (Cicero, 1971 ); and G. E. Moore ranked friendship as
one of ‘the most valuable things that we can know or imagine’ and the one that
provides the only justifi cation for ‘performing any public or private duty’ (Moore,
1903 ). Plato argued that life was a one big coordination problem, and that justice
consisted of an effi cient division of labour where everyone played their part (Plato,
1974 ). Loyalty—commitment to a common cause, such as the ‘devotion of a patriot
to his country’—has been described as ‘the heart of all the virtues, the central duty
amongst all duties’ (Royce, 1908 ). More recently, many theorists have agreed that
loyalty—‘giving special consideration to a person or group of persons’ (Gert, 2013 ,
p. 18)—is a moral issue, even if they have not agreed on the reasons why (Levinson,
Parker, & Woodruff, 2013 ). And the moral philosopher Allan Gibbard has argued
that people possess ‘biological adaptations for coordination’ that enable them to
identify and adopt norms and conventions and thereby coordinate individuals to
mutual advantage: ‘The key to human moral nature lies in coordination broadly
construed’ (Gibbard, 1990a , 1990b ).
(3) Exchange
In some situations, the benefi ts of mutualism are uncertain, perhaps because the
benefi ts are transferred at different times; here, individuals might be exploited by
‘free riders’, who accept a benefi t, but neglect to return it. These situations are mod-
elled as prisoner’s dilemmas (social dilemmas, public goods games, and so on)
(Ostrom & Walker,
2002 )—games in which non-cooperation is the only viable
O.S. Curry
strategy. However, if individuals meet repeatedly, then the situation becomes an
‘assurance game’, and cooperation can be maintained by a strategy of conditional
cooperation—such as ‘tit for tat’—that begins by cooperating and then reciprocates
the other individual’s behaviour (returning a benefi t or avenging an injury) (Axelrod,
1984 ; Trivers, 1971 ).
Surprisingly, few if any examples of full-blown ‘reciprocal altruism’ have been
found in non-human species (Amici et al., 2014 ; Clutton-Brock, 2009 ), although
some aspects of reciprocity have been identifi ed in cleaner fi sh (Bshary & Grutter,
2006 ), vampire bats (Carter & Wilkinson, 2013 ), and primates (Mitani, 2009 ).
Social exchange may have been a recurrent feature of the social lives of humans
since our last common ancestors with chimpanzees six million years ago (Jaeggi &
Gurven, 2013 ); and there is some suggestive evidence for trade between groups
from 82,000 years ago (Bouzouggar et al., 2007 ). Research on adaptations for
exchange in humans has focussed on trust (Kosfeld, Heinrichs, Zak, Fischbacher,
& Fehr, 2005 ), gratitude (McCullough, Kimeldorf, & Cohen, 2008 ), cheater detec-
tion (Cosmides & Tooby, 2005 ), punishment (Price, Cosmides, & Tooby, 2002 ),
revenge, and forgiveness (McCullough, Kurzban, & Tabak, 2013 ). Culturally,
humans have extended the scope of exchange and reciprocity through such ‘tech-
nologies of trust’ as money, written contracts, ‘mechanical cheater detectors’ such
as ‘[c]ash register tapes, punch clocks, train tickets, receipts, accounting ledgers’,
handcuffs, prisons, electric chairs, CCTV, branding of criminals, and criminal
records (Pinker, 1997 ). Behaviourally, reciprocity emerges early in children’s
behaviour (Harbaugh, Krause, Liday, & Vesterlund, 2002 ) and is used as a strategy
for social exchange cross-culturally (Henrich et al., 2005 ; Kocher, Cherry, Kroll,
Netzer, & Sutter, 2008 ).
Morality as cooperation predicts that solutions to the problems of exchange—
especially the mechanisms that implement reciprocity—are component parts of
human morality and will be considered morally good. There is evidence to suggest
that they are.
Reciprocity in general is the guiding principle of many moral philosophies.
When asked for a single word that could sum up morality, Confucius answered:
‘Reciprocity perhaps? Do not infl ict on others what you yourself would not wish
done to you’ (Confucius, 1994 ). ‘Social contract’ theorists—from ‘Glaucon’
(Plato, 1974 ) to Hobbes ( 1651/1958 ) to Rawls ( 1971 )—have viewed all of moral-
ity through the lens of reciprocity. The golden rule of ‘do as you would be done by’
is present in all major world religions (Chilton & Neusner, 2009 ). And in its nega-
tive form, reciprocity provides the guiding principle of theories of punishment and
retribution—from the Code of Hammurabi’s ‘eye for an eye’ onwards (Daly &
Wilson, 1988 ). The specifi c subcomponents of reciprocity—trust (Baier, 1995 ),
patience (Curry, Price, & Price, 2008 ), gratitude (Emmons, 2004 ), guilt (Gibbard,
1990b ), apology (Ohtsubo & Watanabe, 2009 ), and forgiveness (Downie, 1965 ;
Godfray, 1992 ; Richards, 1988 )—have also been regarded as important facets of
Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach
(4) Confl ict Resolution
Organisms often come into confl ict over resources such as food, territory, and mates
(Huntingdon & Turner, 1987 ). Although such confl icts appear zero-sum, in fact
there are costs involved in confl ict—time, energy, and injury—that individuals have
a common interest in avoiding. For this reason, animal confl icts are modelled not as
zero-sum games, but as nonzero-sum hawk–dove games, in which the worst out-
come occurs only if both players adopt a ‘hawkish’ strategy of all-out aggression
(Maynard Smith & Price, 1973 ). Thus, confl ict presents combatants with an oppor-
tunity to cooperate, by competing in less mutually destructive ways. There are three
ways of achieving this: contests (featuring the display of hawkish and dove-ish
traits), division, and possession.
(a) Contests
Instead of fi ghting, one option is for contestants to display reliable indicators of
‘fi ghting ability’ (or ‘resource holding power’ or ‘formidability’) and for the weaker
party to cede the resource to the stronger. In this way, the stronger party still wins,
but both avoid the costs of a real fi ght (Gintis, Smith, & Bowles, 2001 ; Maynard
Smith & Price, 1973 ).
Animal contests in which contestants follow such ‘display and defer’ strategies
are widespread in nature. Depending on the species, ‘hawkish’ displays of size,
weight, age, or experience may carry the day (Hardy & Briffa, 2013 ; Riechert,
1998 ). Such displays may also involve costly acts that benefi t others (Zahavi &
Zahavi, 1997 ). Conversely, ‘dove-ish’ cues of submission involve exaggerated
concealment of these same attributes, or conspicuous displays of their absence
(Darwin, 1872/1998 ; Preuschoft & van Schaik, 2000 ). In stable social groups, in
which relative ‘power’ is already known by reputation (through direct experience
or third- party observation), individuals can dispense with the contest, and allocate
disputed resources by ‘rank’. Such ‘dominance hierarchies’ represent a further
de-escalation of confl ict, and are also widespread in nature (Preuschoft & van
Schaik, 2000 ).
Humans and their recent ancestors have always faced the problem of confl ict
resolution, because such problems are inherent in group living (Shultz & Dunbar,
2007 ). Research into human adaptations for resolving confl icts via contests has
focussed on cues of dominance and deference, including facial expressions, voice
pitch, and height (Sell et al.,
2010 ; Sell et al., 2009 ; Watkins et al., 2010 ), and tes-
tosterone—the hormonal system responsible for prompting competitive displays,
elating winners, and defl ating losers (Mazur, 2005 ). And experiments suggest that
a tendency for the strong to display status by helping the weak— noblesse oblige
is present cross-culturally (Fiddick, Cummins, Janicki, Lee, & Erlich, 2013 ).
Culturally, humans have invented numerous means of minimising the costs of
O.S. Curry
confl ict through stylised contests—including single (‘champion’) combat (Cowan, 2007 ),
duels, tournaments, rules of combat (Queensberry rules, Geneva Conventions), and
competitive games and sports (Deaner & Smith, 2012 ). There has been relatively
little research on human adaptations for navigating hierarchies, apart from the fi nd-
ing that human hierarchies are less pronounced than those of our nearest primate
relatives (Boesch, 1999 ; Gavrilets, Duenez-Guzman, & Vose, 2008 ). But culturally,
humans have invented countless ways of displaying status and regulating relation-
ships accordingly, such as honorifi cs, etiquette, dress codes, medals, decorations
and honours, and caste systems. Behaviourally, humans—especially males—
commonly engage in costly and conspicuous displays of prowess, resources, and
even altruism, especially in the context of mate competition (Hardy & Van Vugt,
2006 ; Hawkes, 1991 ; Hawkes, O’Connell, & Blurton Jones, 2001 ; Miller, 2000 ).
Children spontaneously form dominance hierarchies relatively early in their devel-
opment (Edelman & Omark, 1973 ), and status hierarchies are a ubiquitous feature
of human societies (Boone, 1992 ; Rubin, 2000 ).
Morality as cooperation predicts that resolving confl icts by means of contests
will give rise to two apparently opposing sets of moral values, refl ecting the two
branches of the ‘display–defer’ strategy—the virtues of the hawk and the virtues
of the dove. The theory predicts that hawkish signals of prowess (strength, forti-
tude, bravery, heroism generosity, largesse) and also dove-ish displays of submis-
sion (humility, deference, respect, obedience) are component parts of human
morality and will be considered morally good. There is evidence to suggest that
they are.
Traits that establish status and forestall disputes have been celebrated as ‘excel-
lences’ or ‘virtues’ throughout history (MacIntyre, 1981a , 1981b ). The philosopher
David Hume gives a particularly cogent account (Hume, 1739/1985 ). He recognised
that many animals take pride in their ‘beauty, strength, swiftness’; in addition,
humans take pride in their ‘imagination, judgment, memory or disposition; wit,
good-sense, learning, courage, justice, [and] integrity’, and differences in the ability
give rise to hierarchies in which ‘certain deferences and mutual submissions’ are
required ‘of the different ranks of men towards each other’. High status then moti-
vates altruistic acts by fostering the ‘heroic virtues’: ‘[c]ourage, intrepidity, ambi-
tion, love of glory, magnanimity, and all the other shining virtues’. Hume contrasted
these ‘heroic’ virtues with the ‘monkish’ virtues of ‘[c]elibacy, fasting, penance,
mortifi cation, self-denial, humility, silence, solitude’, and so on (Hume, 1757/1889 ).
A monkish virtue such as humility—‘a just sense of our weakness’—‘is esteem’d
virtuous, and procures the good-will of everyone’ (Hume, 1757/1889 ). Aristotle,
Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and Mill have celebrated similar virtues, for similar reasons
(Curry, 2007 ). And, in keeping with the theory, the original meaning of ‘respect’
evoked ‘an element of fear’ directed towards ‘dangerous things’. ‘In olden days…
the scale of respect was one with the scales of power and status’. Later, the term
came to be applied not just to physical power, but to the power of ideas, ‘not the
ability to make demands backed up by force, but the ability to make claims backed
up by reasons’, and in this way, ‘moral terms which in their original senses had to
Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach
do with power, pressure, force, coercion…come to be applied to ‘moral’ force, or
power’ (Feinberg, 1973 ).
Consistent with the theory, both hawkish and dove-ish traits tend to be seen as
moral when there is an obvious power differential—as in Plato’s Republic (workers
ought to obey their ‘virtuous’ philosophical superiors), Aristotle’s polis (slaves
ought to obey their ‘rational’ masters), and feudal monarchies (subjects ought to
obey their ‘divine’ sovereigns). Similarly, respect and obedience seem appropriate
when arguing that children ought to obey their parents or soldiers ought to obey
their superior offi cers. But, as the theory also predicts, in societies that are, or pro-
fess to be, more equal—such as Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich Democracies
(WEIRD) (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010 )—deference and respect for power
appear ‘obsolete’ (Berger, 1970 ).
(b) Division
If the contested resource is divisible (such as spoils from a hunt, or a disputed border
between territories), then game theory models the situation as a ‘bargaining prob-
lem’ (Nash, 1950 ). Here, one solution is to divide the resource in proportion to the
relative (bargaining) power of the protagonists (Skyrms, 1996 ). In the case of
equally powerful individuals, this results in equal shares (Maynard Smith, 1982 ).
Among animals, indirect evidence for a ‘sense of fairness’ in non-human pri-
mates comes from reactions to unequal treatment in economic games (Brosnan,
2013 ).
There has been relatively little research on human adaptations for resolving con-
icts using division. It has been found that males with elevated levels of testosterone
make (Zak et al., 2009 ) and reject (Burnham, 2007 ) lower offers in ultimatum bar-
gaining games. And there is also some evidence that individuals will exhibit defer-
ence to the preferences of more powerful individuals (de Kwaadsteneit & van Dijk,
2010 ). Nevertheless, rules such as ‘I cut, you choose’, ‘meet in the middle’, ‘split
the difference’, and ‘take turns’ are ancient and widespread means of resolving
disputes (Brams & Taylor, 1996 ). And behaviourally, it has been found that ‘equal
shares’ is a spontaneous and cross-culturally prevalent decision rule in economic
games (Güth, Schmittberger, & Schwarze, 1982 ; Henrich et al., 2005 ) and other
situations (Messick, 1993 ).
Morality as cooperation predicts that resolving confl icts by means of division—
negotiation, compromise, fairness—is a component part of human morality and will
be considered morally good. There is evidence to suggest that it is.
Negotiating a compromise—whether directly between two individuals, or by
means of a third party (arbitration, mediation)—has been described as a ‘fair and
rational way of reaching a reasonable agreement’ (Pennock & Chapman, 1979 ).
And fairness itself has been viewed as synonymous with morality, as in John Rawls’
( 1958 ) infl uential work ‘Justice as Fairness’.
O.S. Curry
(c) Possession
Finally, game theory shows that confl icts over resources can also be resolved by
deference to prior ownership (Gintis, 2007 ; Maynard Smith, 1982 ). The recognition
of prior ownership is widespread in nature: ‘in almost all territorial species, intrud-
ers respect territory ownership’—‘The space that a territory owner defends is func-
tionally equivalent to his property, and an intruder’s respect reveals his
acknowledgment of ownership and property rights’ (Hauser, 2001 , p. 303; see also
Strassmann & Queller, 2014 ).
There has been relatively little research on human adaptations for ownership—
although some have interpreted the ‘endowment effect’ (Gintis, 2007 ; Kahneman
& Tversky, 1979 ) and international disputes over territory (Johnson & Toft, 2014 )
in this light. Culturally, humans have invented a range of institutions—title and
land registries—to keep track of who owns what (No Title, 2001 ), and ‘fi rst posses-
sion’ is the basis of much property law (Rose, 1985 ). Behaviourally, the notion that
objects can be ‘owned’ emerges early in child development (Friedman & Neary,
2008 ; Ross & Friedman, 2011 ) and (in various forms) is cross-culturally universal:
‘in all groups personal ownership of some goods and rights exists…private prop-
erty, in this sense, is known everywhere’ (Herskovits, 1952 , p. 372); ‘the phenom-
enon is a universal one, since there is no group who live so precariously that there
is not some tool, some weapon, some bit of ornament or clothing that is not
regarded as indisputably the possession of its maker, its user, its wearer’ (Herskovits,
1952 , p. 327).
Morality as cooperation predicts that resolving confl icts by deferring to prior
ownership—respecting others’ property and territory and not stealing—is a compo-
nent part of human morality and will be considered morally good. There is evidence
to suggest that it is.
In another astute analysis, David Hume noted that property rights are acquired
primarily through ‘fi rst possession’ or ‘occupation’, and he argued that such rights
serve ‘to cut off all occasions of discord and contention’ (Hume, 1739/1985 ). Many
others have agreed that there can be a moral right to own property, even while dis-
agreeing as to the reasons why (Becker, 1977 ; Locke, 2000 ; Pennock & Chapman,
1980 ). And Westermarck reports that ‘When we examine the moral rules of unci-
vilised races…[i]n every savage community homicide is prohibited by custom, and
so is theft’ (Westermarck, 1906 ).
A Periodic Table of Ethics
Thus, morality as cooperation predicts that there will be multiple moral domains,
and it predicts what these domains will be. It uses the game theory of cooperation to
create a novel taxonomy of moral values—a ‘Periodic Table of Ethics’—that incor-
porates a wide variety of moral phenomena: obligations to family, group loyalty,
reciprocity, bravery, respect for hierarchy, fairness, and property rights (see Table
2 ).
Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach
Table 2 A periodic table of ethics: an overview of morality as cooperation
Problem Theory
examples Human examples Morals
Kinship Kin selection
1979 ;
1964 )
1991 ), parental
care (Clutton-
1991 ;
Royle et al.,
2012 )
Kin detection and
incest aversion
(Lieberman et al.,
2003 , 2007 ), paternal
investment (Geary,
2000 ), patterns of
homicide (Daly &
1996 ). Rules
against incest
1991 )
Obligations to kin
1996 ),
duty of parental
care (Edel & Edel,
1959 /1968;
1906 ), prohibition
of incest
1906 )
Mutualism Mutualism
1995 ),
1969 ;
1960 ), coalition
(Tooby &
1996 ; Von
Neumann &
1944 )
2009 ),
(Boinski &
2000 ;
Boos et al.,
2011 ),
et al.,
2015 ;
Harcourt & de
1992 )
psychology (Kurzban
et al.,
2001 ), common
knowledge (Thomas
et al.,
2014 ), ‘theory
of mind’ (Tomasello
et al.,
2005 ). Ingroup
favouritism (Balliet
et al.,
2014 ; Sherif
et al.,
1954 /1961;
1970 ). Social
construction (Berger
& Luckmann,
1966 )
1962 ),
loyalty (Royce,
1908 ), conformity
1990a ,
1990b )
Exchange Reciprocal
1984 ;
1971 )
Vampire bats?
(Carter &
2013 )
Trust (Kosfeld et al.,
2005 ), gratitude
(McCullough et al.,
2008 ), cheater
detection (Cosmides
& Tooby,
2005 ),
punishment (Price
et al.,
2002 ), revenge
and forgiveness
(McCullough et al.,
2013 ). Technologies
of trust (Pinker,
1997 ). Ubiquity of
reciprocity (Henrich
et al.,
2005 ; Kocher
et al.,
2008 )
Reciprocity (Rawls,
1971 ), punishment
(Daly & Wilson,
1988 ), trust (Baier,
1995 ), gratitude
2004 ),
guilt (Gibbard,
1990b ), apology
(Ohtsubo &
2009 ),
1965 ;
1992 ;
1988 )
O.S. Curry
And, as we have just seen, this approach receives some support from the existing
literature on morality. But morality as cooperation is also brimming with further
novel testable predictions about the structure and content of moral thought.
Developing this promising, principled, problem-centred approach will involve mak-
ing these predictions explicit and putting them to the test.
First, the good, the bad, and the neutral. As we have seen, morality as coopera-
tion predicts that people will regard specifi c types of cooperative behaviour—
behaviour that solves some problem of cooperation—as morally good. Thus, people
will regard helping your family, being loyal to your group, reciprocating favours,
being brave, deferring to authority, dividing disputed resources, and respecting
property, as morally good. And they will regard failing to cooperate—by neglecting
your family, betraying your group, cheating, being cowardly, rebelling against
Table 2 (continued)
Problem Theory
examples Human examples Morals
Confl ict
Animal confl ict
and costly
signals (Gintis
et al.,
2001 ;
Maynard Smith
& Price,
1973 ),
dominance and
2005 )
(Hardy &
2013 ;
1998 ),
(Preuschoft &
van Schaik,
2000 )
Formidability (Sell
et al.,
2010 ), costly
signalling (Hawkes,
1991 ; Hawkes et al.,
2001 ; Miller, 2000 ),
noblesse oblige
(Fiddick et al.,
2013 ),
dominance and
deference (Mazur,
2005 ). Games and
sports (Deaner &
2012 ).
Ubiquity of status
hierarchies (Boone,
1992 ; Rubin, 2000 )
Virtues and
excellences (Curry,
2007 ; MacIntyre,
1981b ). Hawkish
virtues (fortitude,
bravery, skill,
generosity, beauty)
1739/1985 ),
dove-ish virtues
(humility, respect,
1973 ;
1757/1889 )
Confl ict
Bargaining and
1982 ;
1950 ;
1996 )
2013 )
Ultimatum games
(Güth et al.,
1982 ;
Henrich et al.,
2005 ),
equality (Messick,
1993 ). ‘Cut the cake’
(Brams & Taylor,
1996 )
Fairness (Rawls,
1958 ), negotiation,
and compromise
(Pennock &
1979 )
Confl ict
Prior ownership
2007 ;
Maynard Smith,
1982 )
Ownership and
(Strassmann &
2014 )
Endowment effect
2007 ;
Kahneman &
1979 ),
territoriality (Johnson
& Toft,
2014 ).
Property law (Rose,
1985 ). Ubiquity of
property (Herskovits,
1952 )
Property rights
1977 ;
1739/1985 ;
2000 ;
Pennock &
1980 ).
1906 )
Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach
authority, being unfair, and stealing—as morally bad. The theory also predicts that
behaviour that has nothing to do with cooperation—nonsocial behaviour or
competition in zero-sum games (‘all’s fair in love and war’)—will be regarded as
morally neutral.
Second, universality and diversity. Morality as cooperation also predicts that—
because these problems are universal features of human social life—these coopera-
tive behaviours will be considered morally good in every human culture, at all times
and in all places. There will be no cultures where morality is about something other
than cooperation—say, aesthetics or nutrition. And there will be no cultures where
helping your family, being loyal to your group, reciprocating favours, being brave,
deferring to authority, dividing disputed resources, respecting property, and so on
are considered morally bad. However, the theory does not predict that moral sys-
tems will everywhere be identical. On the contrary, the prediction is that, to the
extent that different people and different societies face different portfolios of prob-
lems, different domains of morality will loom larger—different cultures will priori-
tise different moral values. For example, differences in family size, frequency of
warfare, or degree of inequality may lead to differences in the importance attached
to family values, bravery, and respect.
Third, uncharted territory. Morality as cooperation predicts that as yet poorly
understood aspects of morality will also turn out to be about cooperation. For
example, sexual morality will consist of a collection of solutions to the specifi c
problems of cooperation and confl ict that arise within and between the sexes.
Political morality will regard leaders as morally good if they promote cooperation
among their followers—by solving coordination problems (especially in the con-
text of group defence), enforcing contracts, punishing cheats, resolving (violent)
confl icts, displaying prestigious virtues (especially bravery and wisdom), maintain-
ing hierarchies, impartially arbitrating disputes, redistributing the rewards of col-
lective action equitably, and respecting their subjects’ property. Conversely, morally
bad leaders will be those who do none of the above and instead parasitise their
followers’ cooperation. Ethics in international relations—grand alliances, trade
agreements, diplomacy, rules of war, and so on—will consist of solutions to the
problems of cooperation that arise between groups, as opposed to individuals.
Religious morality—ancestor worship, food taboos, karma, reverence, and so on—
will turn out to be the product of mechanisms designed for mundane cooperation
(McKay & Whitehouse, 2014 ).
Finally, extending the foundations. Morality as cooperation predicts that devel-
opments in game theory will expand the theory’s explanatory power. Already, by
drawing on all nonzero-sum games, the theory goes beyond most existing reviews
of cooperation, which tend to focus on kin and reciprocal altruism, and overlook
mutualism and confl ict resolution (see Table 3 ). The discovery of new game-
theoretical problems and solutions will open up new horizons for the explanation of
further aspects of morality.
O.S. Curry
Table 3 Previous reviews of cooperation are incomplete
Kin Mutualism Exchange
(dove) Division Possession Other
among animals
Dugatkin ( 1997 ) Kinship 1
Reciprocity 1
Byproduct mutualism 1
Group selection 1
Cooperation and
collective action
in animal
Nunn and Lewis
2001 )
Kinship 1
Prisoner’s dilemma 1
Coordination/mutualism 1
Chicken/hawk–dove 1 1
The evolution of
Sachs, Mueller,
Wilcox, and Bull
2004 )
Directed reciprocation 1
Shared genes 1
By-product benefi ts 1
Five rules for
the evolution of
Nowak ( 2006 ) Kin selection 1
Direct reciprocity 1
Indirect reciprocity 1
Network reciprocity 1
Group selection 1
The evolution of
cooperation and
Lehmann and
Keller (
2006 )
Direct benefi ts 1
Reciprocation 1
Kin selection 1
Greenbeard 1
explanations for
West, Griffi n,
and Gardner
2007 )
Direct benefi ts 1
Indirect benefi ts 1
By-product benefi ts 1
Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach
Alternative Alchemies
Morality as cooperation is a naturalistic theory grounded in our understanding of
the material world; it draws on the latest insights from empirical sciences such as
ethology, psychology, and anthropology; it offers a unifi ed, universal view of moral-
ity; and it uses the principles of game theory to identify specifi c problems of coop-
eration and their corresponding solutions and to make predictions about moral
phenomena. As such, morality as cooperation differs from existing theories in a
number of ways.
It differs from those theories that invoke the supernatural (it has no need of that
hypothesis). It differs from those that attempt to explain morality using only pre-
scientifi c folk ontologies—such as belief, desire, passion, reason, and the will
(Jackson, Pettit, & Smith, 2004 ).
It differs from theories that maintain that there is nothing that unifi es the diverse
array of moral phenomena (Sinnott-Armstrong & Wheatley, 2013 ) and that we must
therefore settle for a plethora of low-level generalisations about morality (Bartels,
Bauman, Cushman, Pizarro, & McGraw, 2015 ).
It differs from theories that argue that the very defi nition of morality varies from
culture to culture, that there are no universal moral values, and that morality varies
radically or arbitrarily across cultures (Ladd, 1985 ).
It differs from theories that hold that morality is not about cooperation, but about
fulfi lling natural human functions or fully expressing human capacities (Arnhart,
1998 ; Casebeer, 2003 ). And it differs from theories that hold that morality is about
maximising welfare, well-being or utility by any means, not necessarily cooperation
(Mill & Bentham, 1987 ).
It differs from approaches that do not use game theory (or indeed any theory
at all) to derive their taxonomies of morality and that consequently confl ate,
omit, and misconstrue different types of cooperation (see Table 4 ). For example,
morality as cooperation suggests that Fiske’s Relational Models (based on ethno-
graphic fi eld work and, oddly, the theory of measurement; Stevens, 1946 ),
Shweder’s CAD Triad (based on a small study in one culture), and Haidt’s Moral
Foundations (based on a literature review of fi ve sources, including Fiske and
Shweder) err in confl ating kinship and mutualism, and exchange and division,
and in omitting hawkish traits and possession. Further, morality as cooperation
suggests that the Moral Foundations approach also errs by interpreting mutual-
ism as group selection (Haidt,
2012 ) and including a category—purity, avoiding
‘people with diseases, parasites [and] waste products’—that has no apparent con-
nection to cooperation.
And, it differs from theories that, because they lack any underlying theory,
cannot make principled predictions about the nature of morality (Haidt &
2011 ).
O.S. Curry
Table 4 Previous moral taxonomies are incomplete
Kin Mutualism Exchange
(dove) Division Possession Other
Fiske ( 1992 ) and
Rai and Fiske
2011 )
Unity 1 1
Respect 1
Equality 1 1
Proportionality 1
CAD Triad Shweder, Much,
Park, and
1997 /2003)
Community 1 1 1
Autonomy 1 1 1
Divinity 1
Graham et al.
2011 ) and Haidt
and Joseph
2004 )
Care ~1 1
Fairness 1 1
Ingroup 1 1 1
Authority 1
Purity 1
Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach
Morality is no mystery. We have a theory. Morality is a collection of biological
and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation and confl ict recurrent in
human social life; and game theory reveals what those problems and solutions are.
Morality as cooperation explains what morality is, where it comes from, how it
works, and what it is for.
Crucially, because this theory makes predictions about morality—predictions
that can be tested against those of rival theories using standard scientifi c method—it
makes clear that the study of morality, theory driven and empirically tested, is sim-
ply another branch of science. And it is this realisation, more than any particular
theory, that will set the study of morality on the fi rm scientifi c foundation that will
nally allow it to fl ourish.
Acknowledgements I am very grateful to Helena Cronin and Daniel Mullins for their enormously
helpful comments on numerous drafts of this chapter.
Alvard, M. (2001). Mutualistic hunting. In C. Stanford & H. Bunn (Eds.), Meat-eating and human
evolution (pp. 261–278). New York: Oxford University Press.
Alvard, M., & Nolin, D. (2002). Rousseau’s whale hunt? Current Anthropology, 43 (4), 533–559.
Amici, F., Aureli, F., Mundry, R., Amaro, A., Barroso, A., Ferretti, J., et al. (2014). Calculated reci-
procity? A comparative test with six primate species. Primates, 55 (3), 447–457. doi:
s10329-014-0424-4 .
Aquinas, T. (1988). On politics and ethics . New York, London: WW Norton & Company.
Aristotle. (1962). Nichomachean ethics (M. Oswald, Trans.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Aristotle. (1992). The politics . London: Penguin Books.
Arnhart, L. (1998). Darwinian natural right: The biological ethics of human nature . Albany, NY:
SUNY Press.
Augustine. (1998). The city of god against the pagans . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University
Axelrod, R. (1984). The evolution of cooperation . New York: Basic Books.
Baier, A. (1995). Moral prejudices: Essays on ethics . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Balliet, D., Wu, J., & De Dreu, C. K. W. (2014). Ingroup favoritism in cooperation: A meta-
analysis. Psychological Bulletin , No Pagination Specifi ed. doi:
10.1037/a0037737 .
Bartels, D. M., Bauman, C. W., Cushman, F. A., Pizarro, D. A., & McGraw, A. P. (2015). Moral
judgment and decision making. In G. Keren & G. Wu (Eds.), Blackwell reader of judgment and
decision making . Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Becker, L. C. (1977). Property rights: Philosophic foundations . London, Henley and Boston:
Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Berger, P. L. (1970). On the obsolescence of the concept of honor. European Journal of Sociology,
11 , 338–347.
Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality . London: Allen Lane The
Penguin Press.
Binmore, K. (1994a). Game theory and the social contract, Vol 1: Playing fair? (Vol. I). Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press.
O.S. Curry
Binmore, K. (1994b). Game theory and the social contract, Vol 2: Just playing (Vol. II). Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press.
Bissonnette, A., Perry, S., Barrett, L., Mitani, J. C., Flinn, M., Gavrilets, S., et al. (2015). Coalitions
in theory and reality: A review of pertinent variables and processes. Behaviour, 152 (1), 1–56.
10.1163/1568539X-00003241 .
Boesch, C. (1999). Hierarchy in the forest . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Boinski, S., & Garber, P. A. (Eds.). (2000). On the move: How and why animals travel in groups .
Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Boone, J. (1992). Competition, cooperation and the development of social hierarchies. In E. A.
Smith & B. Winterhalder (Eds.), Ecology, evolution and social behavior (pp. 301–337).
New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
Boos, M., Kolbe, M., Kappeler, P. M., & Ellwart, T. (Eds.). (2011). Coordination in human and
primate groups . Heidelberg, Germany: Springer.
Bouzouggar, A., Barton, N., Vanhaeren, M., d’Errico, F., Collcutt, S., Higham, T., et al. (2007).
82,000-year-old shell beads from North Africa and implications for the origins of modern
human behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of
America, 104 (24), 9964–9969. doi:
10.1073/pnas.0703877104 .
Boyd, R., Richerson, P. J., & Henrich, J. (2011). The cultural niche: Why social learning is essential
for human adaptation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of
America, 108 , 10918–10925. doi:
10.1073/pnas.1100290108 .
Brams, S. J., & Taylor, A. D. (1996). Fair division: From cake-cutting to dispute resolution .
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Brosnan, S. F. (2013). Justice- and fairness-related behaviors in nonhuman primates. Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110 (Suppl. 2), 10416–
10423. doi:
10.1073/pnas.1301194110 .
Bshary, R., & Grutter, A. S. (2006). Image scoring and cooperation in a cleaner fi sh mutualism.
Nature, 441 (7096), 975–978.
nature04755_S1.html .
Burnham, T. C. (2007). High-testosterone men reject low ultimatum game offers. Proceedings of
the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274 (1623), 2327–2330.
Butler, J. (1856). Fifteen sermons preached at the Rolls Chapel . London: Longman.
Carter, G. G., & Wilkinson, G. S. (2013). Food sharing in vampire bats: reciprocal help predicts
donations more than relatedness or harassment. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological
Sciences, 280 (1753). doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2573 .
Casebeer, W. (2003). Natural ethical facts: Evolution, connectionism, and moral cognition .
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Centre, P. R. (2014). Worldwide, many see belief in god as essential to morality .
Chagnon, N. A., & Bugos, P. E. (1979). Kin selection and confl ict: An analysis of a Yanomamö ax
ght. In N. A. Chagnon & W. Irons (Eds.), Evolutionary biology and human social behaviour:
An anthropological perspective . North Scituate, MA: Duxbury Press.
Chapais, B. (2014). Complex kinship patterns as evolutionary constructions, and the origins of
sociocultural universals. Current Anthropology, 55 (6), 751–783. doi:
10.1086/678972 .
Chilton, B. D., & Neusner, J. (Eds.). (2009). The golden rule: The ethics of reciprocity in world
religions . Bloomsbury Academic.
Cicero, M. T. (1971). On the good life . London: Penguin Classics.
Clutton-Brock, T. H. (1991). The evolution of parental care . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Clutton-Brock, T. H. (2009). Cooperation between non-kin in animal societies. Nature, 462 ,
Confucius. (1994). A single word. In P. Singer (Ed.), Ethics (p. 76). Oxford, UK: Oxford University
Connor, R. C. (1995). The benefi ts of mutualism: A conceptual framework. Biological Reviews,
70 (3), 427–457.
Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach
Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2005). Neurocognitive adaptations designed for social exchange. In
D. M. Buss (Ed.), The handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 584–627). New York: Wiley.
Cowan, R. (2007). For the glory of Rome: A history of warriors and warfare . London: Greenhill
Curry, O. S. (2005). Morality as natural history: An adaptationist account of ethics. PhD, London
School of Economics, London. Retrieved from
Curry, O. S. (2007). The confl ict-resolution theory of virtue. In W. P. Sinnott-Armstrong (Ed.),
Moral psychology (Vol. I, pp. 251–261). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Curry, O. S., & Jones Chesters, M. (2012). ‘Put yourself in the other fellow’s shoes’: The role of
‘theory of mind’ in solving coordination problems. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 12 ,
Curry, O. S., Price, M. E., & Price, J. G. (2008). Patience is a virtue: Cooperative people have
lower discount rates. Personality and Individual Differences, 44 , 778–783.
Daly, M., & Wilson, M. (1988). Homicide . New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
Daly, M., & Wilson, M. (1996). Violence against stepchildren. Current Directions in Psychological
Science, 5 , 77–81.
Darwin, C. (1871). The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex . London, John Murray.
Darwin, C. (1872/1998). The expression of the emotions in man and animals (3rd ed.). London:
John Murray/HarperCollins.
Dawkins, R. (1976/2006). The selfi sh gene (3rd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Dawkins, R. (1979). Twelve misunderstandings of kin selection. Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie,
51 (2), 184–200. doi:
10.1111/j.1439-0310.1979.tb00682.x .
Dawkins, R. (1998). Unweaving the rainbow: Science, delusion and the appetite for wonder .
London: Penguin Books.
de Kwaadsteneit, E. W., & van Dijk, E. (2010). Social status as a cue for tacit coordination. Journal
of Experimental Social Psychology, 46 , 515–524.
Deaner, R. O., & Smith, B. A. (2012). Sex differences in sports across 50 societies. Cross-Cultural
Research . doi: 10.1177/1069397112463687 .
Downie, R. S. (1965). Forgiveness. Philosophical Quarterly, 15 (59), 128–134.
Dugatkin, L. A. (1997). Cooperation among animals: An evolutionary perspective . New York:
Oxford University Press.
Edel, M., & Edel, A. (1959/1968). Anthropology and ethics: The quest for moral understanding .
Cleveland, OH: Case Western Reserve University Press.
Edelman, M. S., & Omark, D. R. (1973). Dominance hierarchies in young children. Social Science
Information, 12 (1), 103–110. doi:
10.1177/053901847301200105 .
Emmons, R. A. (Ed.). (2004). The psychology of gratitude . Oxford, UK: OUP.
Euler, H. A., & Weitzel, B. (1996). Discriminative grandparental solicitude as reproductive strat-
egy. Human Nature, 7 , 39–59.
Feinberg, J. (1973). Some conjectures about the concept of respect. Journal of Social Philosophy,
4 (2), 1–3. doi:
10.1111/j.1467-9833.1973.tb00163.x .
Fiddick, L., Cummins, D., Janicki, M., Lee, S., & Erlich, N. (2013). A cross-cultural study of
noblesse oblige in economic decision-making. Human Nature, 24 (3), 318–335. doi:
s12110-013-9169-9 .
Fiske, A. P. (1992). The four elementary forms of sociality – Framework for a unifi ed theory of
social-relations. Psychological Review, 99 (4), 689–723. doi:
10.1037//0033-295X.99.4.689 .
Friedman, O., & Neary, K. R. (2008). Determining who owns what: Do children infer ownership
from fi rst possession? Cognition, 107 (3), 829–849.
2007.12.002 .
Fukuyama, F. (1996). Trust: The social virtues and the creation of prosperity . London: Penguin
Gaulin, S. J. C., & Schlegel, A. (1980). Paternal confi dence and paternal investment: A cross cul-
tural test of a sociobiological hypothesis. Ethology and Sociobiology, 1 (4), 301–309.
10.1016/0162-3095(80)90015-1 .
O.S. Curry
Gavrilets, S., Duenez-Guzman, E. A., & Vose, M. D. (2008). Dynamics of alliance formation and
the egalitarian revolution. PLoS One, 3 (10), e3293.
Geary, D. C. (2000). Evolution and proximate expression of human paternal investment.
Psychological Bulletin, 126 , 55–77.
Gert, B. (2013). Loyalty and morality. In S. Levinson, J. Parker, & P. Woodruff (Eds.), Nomos (Vol.
LIV, pp. 3–21). New York & London: New York University Press.
Gibbard, A. (1990a). Norms, discussion, and ritual: Evolutionary puzzles. Ethics, 100 (July),
Gibbard, A. (1990b). Wise choices, apt feelings . Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.
Gintis, H. (2007). The evolution of private property. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization,
64 (1), 1–16.
Gintis, H., Smith, E. A., & Bowles, S. (2001). Costly signaling and cooperation. Journal of
Theoretical Biology, 213 , 103–119. doi:
10.1006/jtbi.2001.2406 .
Godfray, H. C. J. (1992). The evolution of forgiveness. Nature, 355 , 206–207.
Graham, J., Nosek, B. A., Haidt, J., Iyer, R., Koleva, S., & Ditto, P. H. (2011). Mapping the moral
domain. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101 (2), 366–385. doi:
A0021847 .
Greene, J. D. (2015). The rise of moral cognition. Cognition, 135 , 39–42. http://dx.doi.
10.1016/j.cognition.2014.11.018 .
Güth, W., Schmittberger, R., & Schwarze, B. (1982). An experimental analysis of ultimatum bar-
gaining. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 3 (4), 367–388.
Haidt, J. (2012, June 18). To see group-selected traits, look at groupishness during intergroup
competition. Edge .
Haidt, J., & Joseph, C. (2004). Intuitive ethics: How innately prepared intuitions generate cultur-
ally variable virtues. Daedalus, 133 (4), 55–66.
Haidt, J., & Joseph, C. (2011). How moral foundations theory succeeded in building on sand: A
response to Suhler and Churchland. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23 (9), 2117–2122.
Haidt, J., & Kesebir, S. (2010). Morality. In S. Fiske, G. Gilbert, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook
of social psychology (5th ed., pp. 797–832). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Hamilton, W. D. (1964). The genetical evolution of social behaviour. Journal of Theoretical
Biology, 7 , 1–16, 17–52. doi:
10.1016/0022-5193(64)90039-6 .
Harbaugh, W. T., Krause, K., Liday, S. G., & Vesterlund, L. (2002). Trust in children. In E. Ostrom
& J. Walker (Eds.), Trust, reciprocity and gains from association: Interdisciplinary lessons
from experimental research (pp. 302–322). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Harcourt, A., & de Waal, F. B. M. (Eds.). (1992). Coalitions and alliances in humans and other
animals . Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hardy, C. L., & Van Vugt, M. (2006). Nice guys fi nish fi rst: The competitive altruism hypothesis.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32 (10), 1402–1413. doi: 10.1177/0146167206291006 .
Hardy, C. W., & Briffa, M. (Eds.). (2013). Animal contests . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University
Hauser, M. (2001). Wild minds: What animals really think . London: Penguin.
Hausman, D. M., & McPherson, M. S. (1996). Economic analysis and moral philosophy .
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Hawkes, K. (1991). Showing off: Tests of another hypothesis about men’s foraging goals. Ethology
and Sociobiology, 12 (1), 29–54.
Hawkes, K., O’Connell, J. F., & Blurton Jones, N. G. (2001). Hadza meat sharing. Evolution and
Human Behavior, 22 (2), 113–142.
Hazlitt, H. (1964). The foundations of morality . Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Company Inc.
Henrich, J., Boyd, R., Bowles, S., Camerer, C., Fehr, E., Gintis, H., et al. (2005). ‘Economic Man’
in cross-cultural perspective: Behavioral experiments in 15 small-scale societies. Behavioral
and Brain Sciences, 28 (6), 795–855.
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). Beyond WEIRD: Towards a broad-based
behavioral science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33 (2–3), 111–135. doi:
S0140525x10000725 .
Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach
Hepper, P. G. (Ed.). (1991). Kin recognition . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Herskovits, M. J. (1952). Economic anthropology: A study in comparative economics . New York:
Afred A. Knopf.
Hobbes, T. (1651/1958). Leviathan . New York: Macmillan.
Hume, D. (1739/1985). A treatise of human nature . London: Penguin Classics.
Hume, D. (1757/1889). The natural history of religion . London: Freethought.
Huntingdon, F. A., & Turner, A. K. (1987). Animal confl ict . London & New York: Chapman
and Hall.
Jackson, F., Pettit, P., & Smith, M. (2004). Mind, morality, and explanation: Selected collabora-
tions . Oxford, UK: OUP.
Jaeggi, A. V., & Gurven, M. (2013). Reciprocity explains food sharing in humans and other pri-
mates independent of kin selection and tolerated scrounging: A phylogenetic meta-analysis.
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 280 (1768).
Johnson, D. D. P., & Toft, M. D. (2014). Grounds for war: The evolution of territorial confl ict.
International Security, 38 (3), 7–38. doi:
10.1162/ISEC_a_00149 .
Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk.
Econometrica, 47 , 263–291.
Kocher, M. G., Cherry, T., Kroll, S., Netzer, R. J., & Sutter, M. (2008). Conditional cooperation on
three continents. Economics Letters, 101 , 175–178. doi:
10.1016/j.econlet.2008.07.015 .
Kosfeld, M., Heinrichs, M., Zak, P. J., Fischbacher, U., & Fehr, E. (2005). Oxytocin increases trust
in humans. Nature, 435 , 673–676.
Kurzban, R., Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2001). Can race be erased? Coalitional computation and
social categorization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of
America, 98 (26), 15387–15392.
Ladd, J. (Ed.). (1985). Ethical relativism . Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Lehmann, L., & Keller, L. (2006). The evolution of cooperation and altruism – A general frame-
work and a classifi cation of models. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 19 (5), 1365–1376.
10.1111/j.1420-9101.2006.01119.x .
Levinson, S., Parker, J., & Woodruff, P. (Eds.). (2013). Loyalty (Vol. LIV). New York & London:
New York University Press.
Lewis, D. K. (1969). Convention: A philosophical study . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Lieberman, D., Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2003). Does morality have a biological basis? An
empirical test of the factors governing moral sentiments relating to incest. Proceedings of the
Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences, 270 (1517), 819–826. doi:
Rspb.2002.2290 .
Lieberman, D., Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2007). The architecture of human kin detection. Nature,
445 (7129), 727–731. doi:
10.1038/Nature05510 .
Locke, J. (2000). Labour as the basis of property. In M. Rosen, W. Wolff, & C. McKinnon (Eds.),
Political thought (p. 73). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
MacIntyre, A. C. (1981a). After virtue . London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd.
MacIntyre, A. C. (1981b). The nature of the virtues. Hastings Center Report, 11 (2), 27–34.
Mackie, J. L. (1977). Ethics: Inventing right and wrong . London: Penguin.
Maynard Smith, J. (1982). Evolution and the theory of games . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press.
Maynard Smith, J., & Price, G. R. (1973). The logic of animal confl ict. Nature, 246 , 15–18.
Maynard Smith, J., & Szathmáry, E. (1995). The major transitions in evolution . Oxford, UK:
Oxford University Press.
Mazur, A. (2005). Biosociology of dominance and deference . Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefi eld.
McCullough, M. E., Kimeldorf, M. B., & Cohen, A. D. (2008). An adaptation for altruism? The
social causes, social effects, and social evolution of gratitude. Current Directions in
Psychological Science, 17 (4), 281–285. doi:
10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00590.x .
O.S. Curry
McCullough, M. E., Kurzban, R., & Tabak, B. A. (2013). Cognitive systems for revenge and for-
giveness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36 (01), 1–15. doi:
10.1017/S0140525X11002160 .
McKay, R., & Whitehouse, H. (2014). Religion and morality. Psychological Bulletin .
Messick, D. M. (1993). Equality as a decision rule. In B. Mellers & J. Baron (Eds.), Psychological
perspectives on justice (pp. 11–31). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Mill, J. S., & Bentham, J. (1987). Utilitarianism and other essays . London: Penguin.
Miller, G. F. (2000). The mating mind . London: William Heinemann.
Mitani, J. C. (2009). Cooperation and competition in chimpanzees: Current understanding and
future challenges. Evolutionary Anthropology, 18 (5), 215–227. doi:
10.1002/Evan.20229 .
Moore, G. E. (1903). Principia ethica . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Nagel, T. (1991). Mortal questions . London: Canto.
Nash, J. (1950). The bargaining problem. Econometrica, 18 , 155–162.
No Title. (2001, March 29). The Economist .
Noddings, N. (1978). Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and education . Berkeley, CA:
University of California Press.
Nowak, M. A. (2006). Five rules for the evolution of cooperation. Science, 314 (5805), 1560–1563.
10.1126/science.1133755 .
Nunn, C. L., & Lewis, R. J. (2001). Cooperation and collective action in animal behaviour.
Economics in nature: Social dilemmas, mate choice and biological markets (pp. 42–66).
Cambridge, UK: CUP.
Oates, K., & Wilson, M. (2002). Nominal kinship cues facilitate altruism. Proceedings: Biological
Sciences, 269 (1487), 105–109.
Ohtsubo, Y., & Watanabe, E. (2009). Do sincere apologies need to be costly? Test of a costly sig-
naling model of apology. Evolution and Human Behavior, 30 (2), 114–123.
Ostrom, L., & Walker, J. (Eds.). (2002). Trust and reciprocity: Interdisciplinary lessons from
experimental research . New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Pennock, J. R., & Chapman, J. W. (Eds.). (1979). Compromise in ethics, law and politics (Vol.
XXI). New York: New York University Press.
Pennock, J. R., & Chapman, J. W. (Eds.). (1980). Property (Vol. XXII). New York: New York
University Press.
Pinker, S. (2010). The cognitive niche: Coevolution of intelligence, sociality, and language.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107 , 8993–
8999. doi:
10.1073/pnas.0914630107 .
Pinker, S. (1997). How the mind works . New York: W W Norton.
Platek, S. M., Critton, S. R., Burch, R. L., Frederick, D. A., Myers, T. E., & Gallup, G. G., Jr.
(2003). How much resemblance is enough? Sex difference in reactions to resemblance, but not
the ability to detect resemblance. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24 (3), 81–87.
Plato. (1974). The republic . London: Penguin Books.
Popper, K. R. (1945). The open society and its enemies . London: Routledge.
Preuschoft, S., & van Schaik, C. P. (2000). Dominance and communication: Confl ict management
in various social settings. In F. Aureli & F. B. M. de Waal (Eds.), Natural confl ict resolution
(pp. 77–105). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Price, M. E., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2002). Punitive sentiment as an anti-free rider psycho-
logical device. Evolution and Human Behavior, 23 (3), 203–231. doi:
2004.08.009 .
Rai, T. S., & Fiske, A. P. (2011). Moral psychology is relationship regulation: Moral motives
for unity, hierarchy, equality, and proportionality. Psychological Review, 118 (1), 57–75.
10.1037/a0021867 .
Rawls, J. (1958). Justice as fairness. The Philosophical Review, 67 (2), 164–194.
Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Richards, N. (1988). Forgiveness. Ethics, 99 (1), 77–97.
Riechert, S. E. (1998). Game theory and animal contests. In L. A. Dugatkin & H. K. Reeve (Eds.),
Game theory and animal behavior (pp. 64–93). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach
Rose, C. M. (1985). Possession as the origin of property. University of Chicago Law Review, 52 ,
Ross, H., & Friedman, O. (Eds.). (2011). Origins of ownership of property: New directions for
child and adolescent development . Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Royce, J. (1908). The philosophy of loyalty . New York: Macmillan.
Royle, N. J., Smiseth, P. T., & Kölliker, M. (Eds.). (2012). The evolution of parental care . Oxford,
Rubin, P. H. (2000). Hierarchy. Human Nature, 11 (3), 259–279.
Ruddick, S. (1980). Maternal thinking. Feminist Studies, 6 , 342–367.
Russell, B. (1927). Philosophy . New York: Norton.
Sachs, J. L., Mueller, U. G., Wilcox, T. P., & Bull, J. J. (2004). The evolution of cooperation. The
Quarterly Review of Biology, 79 (2), 135–160. doi:
10.1086/383541 .
Schelling, T. C. (1960). The strategy of confl ict . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Sell, A., Bryant, G. A., Cosmides, L., Tooby, J., Sznycer, D., von Rueden, C., et al. (2010).
Adaptations in humans for assessing physical strength from the voice. Proceedings of the
Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 277 (1699), 3509–3518. doi:
10.1098/Rspb.2010.0769 .
Sell, A., Cosmides, L., Tooby, J., Sznycer, D., von Rueden, C., & Gurven, M. (2009). Human
adaptations for the visual assessment of strength and fi ghting ability from the body and face.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276 (1656), 575–584. doi:
Rspb.2008.1177 .
Sherif, M., Harvey, O. J., White, B. J., Hood, W. R., & Sherif, C. W. (1954/1961). Intergroup con-
ict and cooperation: The Robbers cave experiment . Norman, OH: University of Oklahoma
Book Exchange.
Shultz, S., & Dunbar, R. I. M. (2007). The evolution of the social brain: Anthropoid primates con-
trast with other vertebrates. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences,
274 (1624), 2429–2436.
Shultz, S., Opie, C., & Atkinson, Q. D. (2011). Stepwise evolution of stable sociality in primates.
Nature, 479 (7372), 219–222.
10601.html#supplementary-information .
Shweder, R. A., Much, N., Park, L., & Mahapatra, M. M. (1997/2003). The ‘Big Three’ of morality
(autonomy, community, divinity) and the ‘Big Three’ explanations of suffering. In A. Brandt &
P. Rozin (Eds.), Morality and health . New York: Routledge.
Sinnott-Armstrong, W., & Wheatley, T. (2013). Are moral judgments unifi ed? Philosophical
Psychology, 27 (4), 451–474. doi:
10.1080/09515089.2012.736075 .
Skyrms, B. (1996). Evolution of the social contract . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Skyrms, B. (2004). The stag hunt and the evolution of social structure . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press.
Smith, M. S., Kish, B. J., & Crawford, C. B. (1987). Inheritance of wealth as human kin investment.
Ethology and Sociobiology, 8 (3), 171–182.
10.1016/0162-3095(87)90042-2 .
Stevens, S. S. (1946). On the theory of scales of measurement. Science, 103 (2684), 677–680.
Strassmann, J. E., & Queller, D. C. (2014). Privatization and property in biology. Animal Behaviour . .
Tajfel, H. (1970). Experiments in intergroup discrimination. Scientifi c American, 223 (5), 96–102.
Thomas, K. A., DeScioli, P., Haque, O. S., & Pinker, S. (2014). The psychology of coordination
and common knowledge. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107 (4), 657–676.
10.1037/a0037037 .
Thornhill, N. W. (1991). An evolutionary analysis of rules regulating human inbreeding and mar-
riage. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 14 (02), 247–261. doi:
10.1017/S0140525X00066449 .
Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., Call, J., Behne, T., & Moll, H. (2005). Understanding and sharing
intentions: The origins of cultural cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28 (5), 675.
Tomasello, M., & Vaish, A. (2013). Origins of human cooperation and morality. Annual Review of
Psychology, 64 (1), 231–255. doi:
10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143812 .
Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1996). Friendship and the banker’s paradox: Other pathways to the evo-
lution of adaptations for altruism. In W. G. Runciman, J. Maynard Smith, & R. I. M. Dunbar
O.S. Curry
(Eds.), Evolution of social behaviour patterns in primates and man (pp. 119–143). Oxford, UK:
British Academy/Oxford University Press.
Tooby, J., & DeVore, I. (1987). The reconstruction of hominid behavioral evolution through
strategic modeling. In W. G. Kinzey (Ed.), The evolution of human behavior: Primate models
(pp. 183–237). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2010). Groups in mind: The coalitional roots of war and morality
(pp. 191–234).
Trivers, R. L. (1971). The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Quarterly Review of Biology, 46 (1),
35–57. doi:
10.1086/406755 .
Van Vugt, M., Hogan, R., & Kaiser, R. B. (2008). Leadership, followership, and evolution: Some
lessons from the past. American Psychologist, 63 (3), 182–196.
Von Neumann, J., & Morgenstern, O. (1944). The theory of games and economic behavior .
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Watkins, C. D., Fraccaro, P. J., Smith, F. G., Vukovic, J., Feinberg, D. R., DeBruine, L. M., et al.
(2010). Taller men are less sensitive to cues of dominance in other men. Behavioral Ecology .
10.1093/beheco/arq091 .
West, S. A., Griffi n, A. S., & Gardner, A. (2007). Evolutionary explanations for cooperation.
Current Biology, 17 (16), R661–R672. doi:
10.1016/j.cub.2007.06.004 .
Westermarck, E. A. (1906). The origin and development of the moral ideas . London: Macmillan.
Whiten, A. (1996). When does smart behaviour-reading become mind-reading? In P. Carruthers &
P. K. Smith (Eds.), Theories of theories of mind . Cambridge, UK: CUP.
Wong, D. (1984). Moral relativity . Berkeley, CA: UC California Press.
Wrangham, R. (1999). Evolution of coalitionary killing. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology,
42 , 1–30.
Young, L., Camprodon, J. A., Hauser, M., Pascual-Leone, A., & Saxe, R. (2010). Disruption of the
right temporoparietal junction with transcranial magnetic stimulation reduces the role of beliefs
in moral judgments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of
America, 107 (15), 6753–6758.
Zahavi, A., & Zahavi, A. (1997). The handicap principle: A missing piece of Darwin’s puzzle .
Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Zak, P. J., Kurzban, R., Ahmadi, S., Swerdloff, R. S., Park, J., Efremidze, L., et al. (2009).
Testosterone administration decreases generosity in the ultimatum game. PLoS One,
4 (12), e8330.
Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach
... Importantly, this set of norms also promotes a more efficient allocation of resources in game B. This is particularly the reason why it evolves based on individuals' self-interest. This observation appears to conform to the view that many aspects of moral systems do not necessarily require self-sacrifice but simply help to foster mutualistic cooperation and bring order and organization into societies [46][47][48][49][50]. In this regard, our analysis suggests that moral systems behave like a Trojan horse: Once established out of the individual's self-interest, they also promote cooperation and self-sacrifice. ...
... This finding seems to conform to many stylized facts about moral systems. For instance, while some moral values encourage self-sacrificing and other-regarding behavior [7,46,64], many other aspects of moral systems do not seem to go against individuals' self-interest, but encourage mutually beneficial behaviors, such as mutualistic cooperation [46][47][48][49][50], or conflict resolution [47,49]. Fairness, loyalty, courage, respecting others, cherishing friendship, working together, and deferring to superiors are examples of such mutualistic moral values. ...
... This finding seems to conform to many stylized facts about moral systems. For instance, while some moral values encourage self-sacrificing and other-regarding behavior [7,46,64], many other aspects of moral systems do not seem to go against individuals' self-interest, but encourage mutually beneficial behaviors, such as mutualistic cooperation [46][47][48][49][50], or conflict resolution [47,49]. Fairness, loyalty, courage, respecting others, cherishing friendship, working together, and deferring to superiors are examples of such mutualistic moral values. ...
Full-text available
In many biological populations, such as human groups, individuals face a complex strategic setting, where they need to make strategic decisions over a diverse set of issues and their behavior in one strategic context can affect their decisions in another. This raises the question of how the interaction between different strategic contexts affects individuals’ strategic choices and social norms? To address this question, I introduce a framework where individuals play two games with different structures and decide upon their strategy in a second game based on their knowledge of their opponent’s strategy in the first game. I consider both multistage games, where the same opponents play the two games consecutively, and reputation-based model, where individuals play their two games with different opponents but receive information about their opponent’s strategy. By considering a case where the first game is a social dilemma, I show that when the second game is a coordination or anti-coordination game, the Nash equilibrium of the coupled game can be decomposed into two classes, a defective equilibrium which is composed of two simple equilibrium of the two games, and a cooperative equilibrium, in which coupling between the two games emerge and sustain cooperation in the social dilemma. For the existence of the cooperative equilibrium, the cost of cooperation should be smaller than a value determined by the structure of the second game. Investigation of the evolutionary dynamics shows that a cooperative fixed point exists when the second game belongs to coordination or anti-coordination class in a mixed population. However, the basin of attraction of the cooperative fixed point is much smaller for the coordination class, and this fixed point disappears in a structured population. When the second game belongs to the anti-coordination class, the system possesses a spontaneous symmetry-breaking phase transition above which the symmetry between cooperation and defection breaks. A set of cooperation supporting moral norms emerges according to which cooperation stands out as a valuable trait. Notably, the moral system also brings a more efficient allocation of resources in the second game. This observation suggests a moral system has two different roles: Promotion of cooperation, which is against individuals’ self-interest but beneficial for the population, and promotion of organization and order, which is at both the population’s and the individual’s self-interest. Interestingly, the latter acts like a Trojan horse: Once established out of individuals’ self-interest, it brings the former with itself. Importantly, the fact that the evolution of moral norms depends only on the cost of cooperation and is independent of the benefit of cooperation implies that moral norms can be harmful and incur a pure collective cost, yet they are just as effective in promoting order and organization. Finally, the model predicts that recognition noise can have a surprisingly positive effect on the evolution of moral norms and facilitates cooperation in the Snow Drift game in structured populations.
... Consistent with this notion, moral condemnation can motivate individuals who are neutral about a norm to adhere to it for fear of blame and subsequent reputation devaluation. Indeed, the expression of blame helps to shape moral behaviour of both the target and onlookers, channeling individuals away from future wrongdoing (Curry, 2016). In short, moral condemnation is a powerful tool to deter unethical actions, because people typically do not want to incur damage to their reputations. ...
... These results cohere with prior evidence suggesting that when individuals are socially or physically compromised, they condemn moral transgressions more strongly, because wrongdoers pose yet an additional threat (Henderson & Schnall, 2021). That is, given that moral condemnation arose in order to deter bad behaviour (e.g., Curry, 2016;Fehr, 2004), vulnerability may fortify moral judgements in order to secure physical wellbeing. ...
Moral judgements are often believed to be firmly grounded in rational thought. However, scholars have discovered that moral considerations are responsive to individual and contextual factors, such as contamination and disease threats. Indeed, the role of disgust and disease threats on amplifying judgements of moral wrongdoing has been widely investigated. Likewise, there may be other forms of threat that similarly fortify condemnation across multiple domains of morality. To explore this possibility, I conducted three lines of research, as reported in Chapters 2 through 4 of this thesis. I hypothesized that worry about contracting an illness in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, heightened risk perception as a consequence of senescence, and the presence or prospect of social exclusion would lead individuals to rate moral transgressions as more objectionable. In Chapter 2, I examined whether individual differences in concern about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic were associated with stricter judgements of moral wrongdoing across the five moral foundations of harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/degradation. Results showed that from March-May of 2020, individuals who were more worried about a previously unknown type of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and contracting the associated COVID-19 disease were harsher in their evaluations of unrelated moral wrongdoing, relative to individuals who were less worried. Results held when controlling for political orientation, suggesting fear of illness was driving the effect, rather than ideological beliefs. Moreover, there was suggestive evidence that moral condemnation intensified across the time periods tested, perhaps as a function of prolonged exposure to the risk of contracting a potentially deadly communicable illness. Building on these findings concerning the relationship between physical threats and moral verdicts, Chapter 3 reports results from multiple large cross-sectional panel surveys, namely nine rounds European Social Survey and seven waves of the World Values Survey, which suggest that relative to younger adults, older adults hold stricter views about the moral domains of authority, purity, and fairness. Results held after controlling for political orientation and income. In a follow-up study on the online testing platform Prolific, older adults rated moral violations to be more objectionable than younger adults. This relationship between age and moral condemnation was mediated by risk perception, such that older adults reported higher sensitivity to risk across a number of domains, which in turn was associated with stricter moral judgements. In sum, findings were consistent with the hypothesis that threats, in this case in the form of older age and senescence, are associated with stricter moral judgements. Shifting to a different form of threat, in Chapter 4 I report findings from three studies investigating how the presence of, and sensitivity to, social exclusion is tied to stricter moral judgements. In two studies, findings revealed an indirect effect: social exclusion reduced the fundamental social needs of belonging, self-esteem, sense of control, and meaningful existence, which in turn was associated with fortified moral judgements. The indirect effect was especially pronounced for harm violations, suggesting a heightened fear of immediate personal danger in response to social exclusion. Alongside these experimental findings, a correlational study revealed a striking effect size for the relationship between social anxiety and moral condemnation, with similar associations across each of five moral content domains. Taken together, results suggest that both the experience of, and sensitivity to, social threat is associated with heightened condemnation of moral infractions. Consistent results from these three lines of work suggest that physical and social threats help to explain and predict moral judgements in response to subjective considerations of safety and well-being.
... The second puzzle of puritanical morality concerns its relation to cooperation. Most evolutionary theories of morality share the ultimate hypothesis that moral cognition is an adaptation to the challenges of cooperation recurrent in human social life (Alexander, 1987;Baumard et al., 2013;Boehm, 2012;Curry, 2016;Haidt, 2012;Stanford, 2018;Tomasello, 2019). ...
... 2 Not all cooperation-based theories of morality are unitary, and not all unitary theories are cooperationbased. Some theories, such as the Morality-As-Cooperation framework (Curry, 2016), view morality as functioning entirely for cooperation, yet slice morality into multiple domains corresponding to distinct domains of cooperation (see also Cosmides et al., 2018). Conversely, some theories maintain that morality did not evolve for cooperation, but rather to advance condemners' self-interest, yet regard morality as a functionally unitary cognitive mechanism (DeScioli & Kurzban, 2009. ...
Full-text available
Why do many societies moralize apparently harmless pleasures, such as lust, gluttony, alcohol, drugs, and even music and dance? Why do they erect temperance, asceticism, sobriety, modesty, and piety as cardinal moral virtues? According to existing theories, this puritanical morality cannot be reduced to concerns for harm and fairness: it must emerge from cognitive systems that did not evolve for cooperation (e.g., disgust-based “Purity” concerns). Here, we argue that, despite appearances, puritanical morality is no exception to the cooperative function of moral cognition. It emerges in response to a key feature of cooperation, namely that cooperation is (ultimately) a long-term strategy, requiring (proximately) the self-control of appetites for immediate gratification. Puritanical moralizations condemn behaviors which, although inherently harmless, are perceived as indirectly facilitating uncooperative behaviors, by impairing the self-control required to refrain from cheating. Drinking, drugs, immodest clothing, and unruly music and dance, are condemned as stimulating short-term impulses, thus facilitating uncooperative behaviors (e.g., violence, adultery, free-riding). Overindulgence in harmless bodily pleasures (e.g., masturbation, gluttony) is perceived as making people slave to their urges, thus altering abilities to resist future antisocial temptations. Daily self-discipline, ascetic temperance, and pious ritual observance are perceived as cultivating the self-control required to honor prosocial obligations. We review psychological, historical, and ethnographic evidence supporting this account. We use this theory to explain the fall of puritanism in WEIRD societies, and discuss the cultural evolution of puritanical norms. Explaining puritanical norms does not require adding mechanisms unrelated to cooperation in our models of the moral mind.
... The question of the place of competition within well-functioning societies is open for investigation. It is argued that ethics based on cooperation brings more significant progress in the long run [100,101]. However, the relationship and the balance between the two are complex, even if the desired final goal is worldwide cooperation. ...
Full-text available
We shall have a hard look at ethics and try to extract insights in the form of abstract properties that might become tools. We want to connect ethics to games, talk about the performance of ethics, introduce curiosity into the interplay between competing and coordinating in well-performing ethics, and offer a view of possible developments that could unify increasing aggregates of entities. All this is under a long shadow cast by computational complexity that is quite negative about games. This analysis is the first step toward finding modeling aspects that might be used in AI ethics for integrating modern AI systems into human society.
... Cooperation refers to behavior aimed at achieving common goals, irrespective of the consequences for the individual (Rand & Nowak, 2013). It has been argued that human cooperation is a tenant for the success of our species (Curry, 2016;Nowak & Coakley, 2013;Seabright, 2010;Szathmáry & Smith, 1995). Yet, collective and individual interests frequently require divergent behavioral choices (Rand & Nowak, 2013). ...
Full-text available
Psychopathy is a personality construct that encompasses a constellation of traits reflecting emotional dysfunction and antisocial behavior. This constellation has consistently been linked to poor decision-making, often focused on personal and monetary gains at the others’ expense. However, there remains a lack of a systematic examination of how psychopathy is related to the prospect of obtaining monetary gains as a function of social context. Therefore, we conducted a series of meta-analyses to elucidate these relationships. Our findings indicated that elevated levels of psychopathy are related to a reduced tendency to cooperate with others, and no difference in the extent to which knowledge of others’ retaliation possibilities informs decision-making. However, the type of social economic decision-making game employed moderated the association between psychopathic traits and total gain obtained, suggesting that context plays a key role in moderating the link between psychopathic features and decision-making. These findings advance our understanding of psychopathy and open new avenues for research on adaptive and maladaptive social behavior in individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits.
Full-text available
We envision an increasing presence of devices with agency and autonomous machines in public spaces (e.g., automated vehicles, urban robots and drones) beyond the confines of constrained environments such as a factory floor or research labs. Hence, AI and robotic systems of the future will need to interact with one another, not only in cyber space but also in physical space, and need to behave appropriately in their interactions with one another. This commentary highlights an ethic of machine-to-machine cooperation and machine pro-sociality, and argues that machines capable of autonomous sensing, decision making and action, such as automated vehicles and urban robots, owned and used by different self-interested parties, and having their own agendas (or interests of their owners) should be designed and built to be cooperative in their behaviours, especially if they share public spaces. That is, by design, the machine should first cooperate, and then only consider alternatives if there are problems. It is argued that being cooperative is not only important for their improved functioning, especially, when they use shared resources (e.g., parking spaces, public roads, curbside space and walkways), but also as a favourable requirement analogous to how humans cooperating with other humans can be advantageous and often viewed favourably. The usefulness of such machine-to-machine cooperation are illustrated via examples including cooperative crowdsourcing, cooperative traffic routing and parking as well as futuristic scenarios involving urban robots for delivery and shopping. It is argued that just as privacy-by-design and security-by-design are important considerations, to yield systems that fulfill ethical requirements, cooperative-by-design should also be an imperative for autonomous systems that are separately owned but co-inhabit the same spaces and use common resources. If a machine using shared public spaces is not cooperative, as one might expect, then it is not only anti-social but not behaving ethically. It is also proposed that certification for urban robots that operate in public could be explored.
Full-text available
The claim I want to explore in this paper is simple. In social ontology, Margaret Gilbert, Abe Roth, Michael Bratman, Antonie Meijers, Facundo Alonso and others talk about rights or entitlements against other participants in joint action. I employ several intuition pumps to argue that we have reason to assume that such entitlements or rights can be ascribed even to non-sentient robots that we collaborate with. Importantly, such entitlements are primarily identified in terms of our normative discourse. Justified criticism, for example, presupposes that another person acted wrongly, i.e., was not entitled to this action. Praise is supposed to encourage another person and acknowledge that one did more than one was obligated to. I show that such normative talk serves the same function when cooperating with robots. This, I argue, suggests that they have the same kind of entitlements and duties at least in the context of a joint action.
This chapter is a concise summary of the integrated framework on the relations between empathy and moral judgment. The roles of individualizing and groupish moral intuitions and moral emotions, such as anticipated guilt, anger, and disgust, are explained. This chapter is specifically written from an evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary perspectives mainly deal with ultimate explanations and thus need to be complemented with proximate explanatory mechanisms. This chapter discusses the key variables of our evolutionary-inspired model underlying moral judgments in the context of distinct moral violations.KeywordsMoral Foundations TheoryCommitment strategiesEmpathyAnticipated guiltMoral angerMoral disgustMoral judgmentMoral violations
Full-text available
Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) holds that moral judgments are driven by modular and ideologically variable moral foundations, but where and how they are represented in the brain and shaped by political beliefs remains an open question. Using a moral judgment task of moral foundation vignettes, we probed the neural (dis)unity of moral foundations. Univariate analyses revealed that moral judgment of moral foundations, versus conventional norms, reliably recruits core areas implied in emotional processing and theory of mind. Yet, multivariate pattern analysis demonstrated that each moral foundation has dissociable neural representations distributed throughout the cortex. As predicted by MFT, political ideology modulated neural responses to moral foundations. Our results confirm that each moral foundation recruits domain-general mechanisms of social cognition, but has a dissociable neural signature malleable by sociomoral experience. We discuss these findings in view of unified versus dissociable accounts of morality and their neurological support for MFT.
In social interactions, the reciprocity norm implies to adjust one’s behavior to that of the other agents. Conversely, behaving according to self-interest involves taking into account the reciprocity principle only if it does not hinder the achievement of one’s goals. However, reciprocity and self-interest may conflict with each other, as when returning a kind action involves sacrificing the possibility to achieve a personal objective. The conflict could be exacerbated by some contextual factors, such as competitive pressures. This study investigated, in a competitive interaction context, which principle prevails when the two conflict. To this end, 276 unpaid participants (M = 138) took part in a two-stage experiment entailing a simulated interaction with a fictitious opponent, which behaved selfishly, fairly or altruistically toward them during the first stage. Participants had to decide whether or not to reciprocate the opponent’s previous behavior, which in the critical experimental conditions conflicted with the goal to successfully complete the experiment. So, they were faced with a moral dilemma. Competition degree was manipulated to make the conflict between reciprocity and self-interest more or less harsh. Moreover, we tested whether the putative effect of experimental manipulation was mediated by changes in context-related affective states and personal beliefs about morality. Results showed that decision-making was principally influenced by reciprocity. Regardless of the competition degree, participants preferred to engage in reciprocal behavior even when this compromised their personal interest. Affective states and beliefs changed in response to the experimental manipulation, but they did not mediate the effect of the independent variable on decision-making.
Introduction The nature of the following work will be best understood by a brief account of how it came to be written. During many years I collected notes on the origin or descent of man, without any intention of publishing on the subject, but...
Over the history of life there have been several major changes in the way genetic information is organized and transmitted from one generation to the next. These transitions include the origin of life itself, the first eukaryotic cells, reproduction by sexual means, the appearance of multicellular plants and animals, the emergence of cooperation and of animal societies, and the unique language ability of humans. This ambitious book provides the first unified discussion of the full range of these transitions. The authors highlight the similarities between different transitions--between the union of replicating molecules to form chromosomes and of cells to form multicellular organisms, for example--and show how understanding one transition sheds light on others. They trace a common theme throughout the history of evolution: after a major transition some entities lose the ability to replicate independently, becoming able to reproduce only as part of a larger whole. The authors investigate this pattern and why selection between entities at a lower level does not disrupt selection at more complex levels. Their explanation encompasses a compelling theory of the evolution of cooperation at all levels of complexity. Engagingly written and filled with numerous illustrations, this book can be read with enjoyment by anyone with an undergraduate training in biology. It is ideal for advanced discussion groups on evolution and includes accessible discussions of a wide range of topics, from molecular biology and linguistics to insect societies.
Cutting a cake, dividing up the property in an estate, determining the borders in an international dispute - such problems of fair division are ubiquitous. Fair Division treats all these problems and many more through a rigorous analysis of a variety of procedures for allocating goods (or 'bads' like chores), or deciding who wins on what issues, when there are disputes. Starting with an analysis of the well-known cake-cutting procedure, 'I cut, you choose', the authors show how it has been adapted in a number of fields and then analyze fair-division procedures applicable to situations in which there are more than two parties, or there is more than one good to be divided. In particular they focus on procedures which provide 'envy-free' allocations, in which everybody thinks he or she has received the largest portion and hence does not envy anybody else. They also discuss the fairness of different auction and election procedures.
Since the development of game theory, the analysis of animal behaviour using the theories of economics has become a growing field of biological research in which models of games and markets play an important role. Studies of sexual selection, interspecific mutualism and intraspecific cooperation show that individuals exchange commodities to their mutual benefit; the exchange values of commodities are a source of conflict, and behavioural mechanisms such as partner choice and contest between competitors determines the composition of trading pairs or groups. These 'biological markets' can be examined to gain a better understanding of the underlying principles of evolutionary ecology. In this volume scientists from different disciplines combine insights from economics, evolutionary biology and the social sciences to look at comparative aspects of economic behaviour in humans and other animals. Aimed primarily at evolutionary biologists and anthropologists, it will also appeal to psychologists and economists interested in an evolutionary approach.
In this pithy and highly readable book, Brian Skyrms, a recognised authority on game and decision theory, investigates traditional problems of the social contract in terms of evolutionary dynamics. Game theory is skilfully employed to offer new interpretations of a wide variety of social phenomena, including justice, mutual aid, commitment, convention and meaning. The author eschews any grand, unified theory. Rather, he presents the reader with tools drawn from evolutionary game theory for the purpose of analysing and coming to understand the social contract. The book is not technical and requires no special background knowledge. As such, it could be enjoyed by students and professionals in a wide range of disciplines: political science, philosophy, decision theory, economics and biology.