Why We Cooperate

Why We Cooperate Understanding cooperation as a distinctly human combination of innate and learned behavior Drop something in front of a two year old and she s likely to pick it up for you This is not a learned behav

  • Title: Why We Cooperate
  • Author: Michael Tomasello
  • ISBN: 9780262013598
  • Page: 271
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Understanding cooperation as a distinctly human combination of innate and learned behavior.Drop something in front of a two year old, and she s likely to pick it up for you This is not a learned behavior, psychologist Michael Tomasello argues Through observations of young children in experiments he himself has designed, Tomasello shows that children are naturally andUnderstanding cooperation as a distinctly human combination of innate and learned behavior.Drop something in front of a two year old, and she s likely to pick it up for you This is not a learned behavior, psychologist Michael Tomasello argues Through observations of young children in experiments he himself has designed, Tomasello shows that children are naturally and uniquely cooperative Put through similar experiments, for example, apes demonstrate the ability to work together and share, but choose not to As children grow, their almost reflexive desire to help without expectation of reward becomes shaped by culture They become aware of being a member of a group Groups convey mutual expectations, and thus may either encourage or discourage altruism and collaboration Either way, cooperation emerges as a distinctly human combination of innate and learned behavior In Why We Cooperate, Tomasello s studies of young children and great apes help identify the underlying psychological processes that very likely supported humans earliest forms of complex collaboration and, ultimately, our unique forms of cultural organization, from the evolution of tolerance and trust to the creation of such group level structures as cultural norms and institutions Scholars Carol Dweck, Joan Silk, Brian Skyrms, and Elizabeth Spelke respond to Tomasello s findings and explore the implications.

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    1 thought on “Why We Cooperate”

    1. An interesting addendum to the notion of "shared intentionality" and the emergence of culture is the following paper (chapter) by evolutionary biologist Randolph Nesse:Nesse RM. Social selection and the origins of culture. In: Schaller M, Heine SJ, Norenzayan A, Yamagishi T, Kameda T, editors. Evolution, culture, and the human mind. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press. p. 137-50, 2010.

    2. Tomasello has come to my attention from two sub areas of interest. The first was Axel Honneth's poorly developed book on reification. According to Honneth, Tomasello has empirically demonstrated that infants have an ontogenetic faculty of deep empathy and recognition of fellow human beings. But most of us know that adults don't have much empathy for other people, and have a hard time 'recognizing' the other (think the entire Republican party). For Honneth this is the new starting point to develo [...]

    3. Tomasello has written a short, sweet technical introduction to his theory of cooperation, which is a pretty hot topic in cognitive circles these days. The book was adapted from a series of lectures (Stanford's 2008 Tanner Lectures), so it isn't as heavily footnoted or quite as academic in tone as an academic journal article, but it doesn't spend quite as much time on background and basics as a typical pop-cog book. Still, it does cover a lot of territory in its short length (only 172 pages, with [...]

    4. Concise and thought-provoking distillation of the current debate over what makes us unique as humans -- the first part uses comparative studies with primates to make the case that we *are* in fact unique in our social interactions, while the second part offers a possible evolutionary trajectory for how we got here. I found the second part marginally more novel and interesting, largely due to its discussion of the social norms and institutions that facilitate a shared intentionality.I saw another [...]

    5. This is a short, little book. But, it's packed with interesting ideas.Tomasello's basic proposition, as I understand it, is that humans cooperate because we have an ability to share intentions, in a symbolic space, and we like to be helpful by sharing information.He tries to tease apart three different types of altruism, or helpfulness, two of which we share with other great apes. The third, which we do not share with apes, is informative helping. He refers to experiments done with children of v [...]

    6. I once abandoned a fiction book after the author closed a chapter with this line: "And that was the last good day." The book had made me miserable up to that point a third of the way through. I didn't want to spend another week being made even more miserable.Here we have a non-fiction book with a fine premise, a promising opening, and then rapidly diminishing returns. Just as I wonder to myself, "Is this worth finishing?" comes this bombshell:"Through processes that we do not understand very wel [...]

    7. This book has a lofty goal -- explaining how human altruism and cooperativeness developed, given that our closest relatives in the animal kingdom aren't altruistic or cooperative -- but only manages to barely skim the surface of the issue. This book is actually a collection of lectures that Tomasello gave, with some short commentary from other scholars at the end. The only problem is, there isn't much new ground covered here compared to Tomasello's other work. If you want a more in-depth coverag [...]

    8. A glimpse into why human beings cooperate with each other, this book is bolstered by plenty of research. Citing studies of very young children, Tomasello makes a convincing case that human beings are hard-wired toward not just cooperation, but altruism. He compares research on children to that of other primates, who don't seem to be nearly as prone to help one another. The last part of the book comprises essays by peers who are engaged in the same investigation, who both agree with him and--in s [...]

    9. The cover of this book promises that it might be a light book, but sadly it's not. Instead this is a book about very in-depth research on cooperation, especially as it relates to humans and great apes. The result is somewhat interesting, though not that interesting to read. The book is then padded out with even less interesting discussions by others in the field.Overall: definitely some interesting and well-supported ideas here, but not a particularly vibrant book. I mostly skimmed it.

    10. I put this book on my wishlist because I attended a lecture on this topic by Tomasello a while ago. Though the research described is interesting enough, the writing style is a bit too scientific to read purely for leisure. I guess I could have known that, though, seeing as this is a Boston Review Book.

    11. Really interesting stuff on humans social behavior. If you read the book, I suggest that you dont skip the Forum where other researchers comment and gives critique to the content and conclussions of the book. I especially found the second part written by Carol S. Dweck very interesting and giving.

    12. My first psychology book and I thought it was informative past just strongly worded anecdotal opinion. Last chapter written by author is short but thoughtfully summed up the piece.The forum chapters - where guest scientists wrote their peer reviews of the author's work - was more dense, but ultimately interesting to me.

    13. Fascinating and excellent short read. Outlines some great research with infants and apes in regards to cooperation and altruism. Also has a valuable "forum" section in the back with responses and rebuttals.

    14. Really interesting research on the evolution (literal) of the tendency to cooperate in humans. Includes some fun experiments that people with 1-3 yr olds should absolutely do with their kids. In summary: Expand your tribe!

    15. Tomasello's work on early cooperation is hugely interesting, especially to any parent of a toddler.

    16. This was full of stories. It didn't really explain the "why " and it discounted non-human primates too much. I found the reactions in the second half of the book to be a much better read.

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