|Path Home: Empathy, Altruism and Agape | Presenters or Itinerary
Three long-standing theories for the evolution of altruism are kin selection, reciprocation, and group selection. We think that these are only three pathways out of a larger set, and that other pathways - what we call engagement models - have led to the evolution of a rich set of neuropsychological adaptations underlying friendship, romantic love, and certain moral sentiments. Our research into the cognitive and neural underpinnings of reciprocation have indicated how different the structure of friendship and love are from strict reciprocation, highlighting the need for alternative evolutionary explanations for these phenomena. Engagement models allow one to understand aspects of the design and social dynamics of human friendship, mateship, parenting, and kinship that are otherwise mysterious, such as why overt and explicit reciprocation is taken as a sign of the absence of friendship, and why human mating so often engenders deep feelings of commitment and sacrifice. While reciprocation depends on the economists model of exchange, the engagement models we develop depend on concepts of substitutability, interdependence, positive and negative externalities, association value, insurance, and niche limitation. We believe selection pressures relating to these variables have constructed specialized motivational, emotional, and inferential circuitry that supply an additional dynamics to human altruism that is nearly absent from other species.
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