Felix Warneken: The Origins of Cooperation and Fairness: Evidence from Children and Chimpanzees


Monday, March 9, 2015, 12:00pm to 1:45pm


Harvard Kennedy School: Allison Dining Room

Felix WarnekenJohn L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, and Joy Foundation Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

Schedule change: Please note that this speaker is a new addition to the seminar schedule.

Humans are able to cooperate with others in sophisticated, flexible ways: sharing valuable resources, assisting others who need help, and working collaboratively in teams. These behaviors are regulated by norms of fairness about the best way to distribute resources and how to treat uncooperative individuals.

However, the origins of these behaviors are contested. Are humans initially driven by purely selfish motives and must be taught to be cooperative? Or do we have a biological predisposition for cooperation? How do humans learn to share a common resource according to what’s ‘fair’?

Here I present experimental studies that aim to determine the developmental and evolutionary origins of our cooperative skills and how they are shaped by fairness norms.

By studying how children’s cooperation and fairness emerge in development and then comparing their behaviors to those of chimpanzees, these studies show which aspects are species-unique and which have deeper evolutionary roots.

No advance paper for this seminar.

See also: Spring 2015