Evolution of conflict and cooperation in human gropus

Main funder

Funder's project number: 292786

Funds granted by main funder (€)

  • 229 424,00

Funding program

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/09/2015

Project end date: 31/12/2017


The most pressing challenges facing humankind have to do with achieving cooperation within and between groups, and with avoiding escalations of aggressive conflicts between groups. Deriving positive solutions to these challenges requires understanding of the fundamentals of human behavior, motivation, and decision making. I propose a research project on human social behavior, in which I integrate modern evolutionary theory with empirical studies of human decision making. The overarching theme of the research is to study the origin, role, and implications of group structure in human social behavior and cultural change. The main objectives of the proposed research are: I. Unraveling the dynamics and interactions of within-group cooperation, intergroup conflict, and group size evolution. Here I will build and analyze mathematical models of the dynamics of coalition-building and within and between-group interactions, explicitly considering the feedbacks of group size and group interactions on individual incentives to join coalitions and to cooperate. I will also conduct experiments on decision making to test the hypoteses humans have psychological inclinations that foster competitive interaction between groups and lead to formation of large competitive coalitions. II. Studying the role of communication and social institutions in affecting the nature of between-group and within-group interactions. Here I will build and analyze mathematical models and conduct experiments on decision making to investigate how communication and punishment, which have been shown to increase cooperation in single-group experiments, affect the nature of between-group interactions. If social institutions that increase within-group cohesiveness simultaneously intensify between-group aggression, the net effect of institutions on social well-being may be negative. Comprehensive analysis of the effects of social institutions are thus necessary. III. Studying the role of group structure and group competition in promoting innovation, teaching, and cumulative culture. Recent studies have revealed that innovative learning strategies are not expected to evolve in well-mixed groups because innovating is costly to an individual and new innovations can be copied by competing individuals. I will develop theoretical models of learning strategies in group-structured populations to reveal the necessary and sufficient conditions for the evolution of innovation, teaching, and cumulative culture.

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Last updated on 2021-17-03 at 12:05