Gini Nelson\’s Engaging Conflicts

January 13, 2007

The Evolution Of Cooperation —

Filed under: Theory To Practice — Gini @ 9:42 am

The New York Times today has an op-ed contribution by Michael Tomasello, the co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, suggesting that the evolution of our highly visible human eyes — referring to the large whites of our eyes that are several times larger than those of other primates — “made it easier to coordinate close-range collaborative activities in which discerning where the other was looking and perhaps what she was planning, benefited both participants.” And why “collaborative”?

[E]volution cannot select the color of my eyes based on advantages to you. Evolutionary theory tells us that, in general, the only individuals who are around today are those whose ancestors did things that were beneficial to their own survival and reproduction. If I have eyes whose direction is especially easy to follow, it must be of some advantage to me.

If I am, in effect, advertising the direction of my eyes, I must be in a social environment full of others who are not often inclined to take advantage of this to my detriment — by, say, beating me to the food [that I have detected] or escaping aggression [from the approaching dominant male in a fighting mood] before me. Indeed, I must be in a cooperative social environment in which others following the directions of my eyes somehow benefits me.

Please note Engaging Conflict’s new address:


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