Monday, November 04, 2013

Daniel Hruschka - Why We Come To The Aid Of Our Friends: An Evolutionary Puzzle

Daniel Hruschka is in the anthropology department at Arizona State University up in Tempe, but I won't hold that against him. His work asks how we as humans make our culture and how culture makes us human. How does our culture influence the way we face tough ethical decisions or deal with serious illness? How do we transform culture by the force of both our best efforts and our unintentional actions? Much of his work focuses on developing novel ways of framing and testing the wealth of hypotheses in the social sciences about two specific questions—how humans stay healthy and how humans cooperate.

His book is Friendship: Development, Ecology, and Evolution of a Relationship (Origins of Human Behavior and Culture) (2010), another brick in the mammoth wish list I have accumulated. Here is the Amazon blurb:
Friends-they are generous and cooperative with each other in ways that appear to defy standard evolutionary expectations, frequently sacrificing for one another without concern for past behaviors or future consequences. In this fascinating multidisciplinary study, Daniel J. Hruschka synthesizes an array of cross-cultural, experimental, and ethnographic data to understand the broad meaning of friendship, how it develops, how it interfaces with kinship and romantic relationships, and how it differs from place to place. Hruschka argues that friendship is a special form of reciprocal altruism based not on tit-for-tat accounting or forward-looking rationality, but rather on mutual goodwill that is built up along the way in human relationships.
There are piles of research similar to this, all of which doesn't quite refute Richard Dawkins' "selfish gene" hypothesis, but it adds layers of complexity.

Why We Come To The Aid Of Our Friends: An Evolutionary Puzzle

Published on Jul 20, 2012
Daniel Hruschka
June 27, 2012

Friends sacrifice for one another with little concern for past behavior or consequences. Such unconditional helping provides an important buffer against hardship. But it also poses an evolutionary puzzle. How have people managed to benefit from selfless aid while avoiding exploitation by false friends? Dan Hruschka searches for clues by looking to the origins of human friendship - how it develops, how it varies across human cultures, and how it relates to social ties in other species.
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