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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Why We Cooperate by Michael Tomasello. 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--and un Understanding cooperation as a distinctly human combination of innate and learned behavior.
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 more 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.
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To ask other readers questions about Why We Cooperate , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Why We Cooperate. Aug 10, Toby rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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. Evolution, culture, and the human mind. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press. Jul 18, Mark rated it it was amazing. Quick read but will make you realize how much of human nature we think we know and take for granted when we are much stranger creatures than we ever consider.
Especially pushes back on jaded and cynical views of human nature when one considers we are by far the most cooperative animal we know of so far. Dec 28, Ann Douglas rated it liked it Shelves: sociology , psychology , read-in Based on a series of lectures that the author gave at Stanford University in , this tiny volume explores two key ideas: 1 how children learn to cooperate and 2 why human beings choose to cooperate.
Intended for an academic rather than a mainstream audience. Feb 06, C rated it really liked it. 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 Tomasello has come to my attention from two sub areas of interest. For Honneth this is the new starting point to develop a theory of reification. This is the institute that Tomasello works for. Having been piqued by his research I picked up Why We Cooperate which, in only pages, sets out to develop an interesting thesis.
He begins with the question: was Hobbes or Rousseau right? Are we born nasty, and brutish, and hardly concerned with others, or are we born angelic and since fallen from grace due to the evolution of civilization?
Tomasello is not as radical as Rousseau, he won't damn all of civilization, but he's convinced that we are born mostly altruistic, cooperative, and empathetic i. He highlights about a dozen studies that reveal just how compassionate and innately concerned children are. He doesn't speculate much on why humans lose their ability to be altruistic, but he does show nearly conclusively that altruism is innate, and not learned.
If anything is learned over time, it's how NOT to be altruistic. Society deprives us of our angelic nature. There is one study that really highlights this. If very young children see someone carrying a stack of books and bumping into a door, they know to walk over and open the door for the person you can youtube these studies. It doesn't matter if the child is alone in the room, or if the parent is there prodding them along, the child always opens the door meaning this isn't parent directed altruism.
But, if the child is given a reward for opening the door, they are less likely to open it a second time, and a third time, and so on. The more rewards they get for doing a good deed, the less inclined they are to do the deed again. The speculation is that the act has initial intrinsic value, but once the intrinsic value is substituted for some material value, the act loses its worth. They all believe people need material and monetary motivation to keep doing good things. What is actually happening is that people are constantly being 'rewarded' for acts they would have done anyway, and are now losing the inclination to do them for the right reasons.
If you reflect on this point for all of ten seconds, it quickly becomes apparent just how rotten capitalism is. In order to quell doubts that Tomasello isn't painting a romantic picture of human-beings, he conducts the exact same studies on chimpanzees. Although they're not completely unconcerned, their ability to share, and conduct altruistic acts, is far less prominent than humans.
This leads him to believe that there is some evolutionary advantage to our innate altruism. Toward the end of the book things become too speculative for my taste.
Evolutionary Psychology often seems like a complete pseudo-science once it starts abstracting back before civilization. Comparing humans to chimpanzees, Tomasselo tries to give an evolutionary account for our unique set of altruistic traits. None of these speculations are wholly empirical, and always abstractly hypothetical.
I don't think it much matters why we evolved these traits; the real important question is why are we no longer exercising them, and what's the cause? View all 10 comments. Shelves: cognition , nonfiction. 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 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 pages, with Tomasello has written a short, sweet technical introduction to his theory of cooperation, which is a pretty hot topic in cognitive circles these days. Still, it does cover a lot of territory in its short length only pages, with pretty big margins. Tomasello explores cooperation with several different comparisons.
Children and chimps, however, are a very intriguing place to start, which is why the New York Times leaned heavily on his work in the December article We May Be Born With an Urge to Help well worth reading. He focuses on two basic phenomena p. View all 3 comments. Feb 27, Robert rated it really liked it Shelves: science. 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 reviewer disappointed that the eponymous question was never decisively answered. That's worth a note, I think. While Tomasello makes an excellent and well-supported argument, he's not arrogant enough to claim that he's reached the final, eternal solution.
The field is young and many experiments still need to be conducted to conclusively settle the claims at play. Many popular books by scientists in young fields serve more to espouse specific, idiosyncratic research programs than to capture the overall state of the debate.
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Why We Cooperate