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On the Evolutionary Origins of the Human Egalitarian Syndrome

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Humans exhibit a strong egalitarian syndrome, i.e., the complex of cognitive perspectives, ethical principles, social norms, and individual and collective attitudes promoting equality. The universality of egalitarianism in mobile hunter-gatherers suggests that it is an ancient, evolved human pattern. I will discuss recent work in theoretical evolutionary biology aiming to understand the forces that could have driven the transition from hierarchical to egalitarian groups in our ancestors. I will consider the phenomena of food sharing, monogamous mating, helping the weak against the strong, as well as the effects of within-group inequality on the success of collective actions.


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