Culture–Gene Coevolution of Empathy and Altruism

Joan Y. Chiao, Katherine D. Blizinsky, Vani A. Mathur and Bobby K. Cheon

in Pathological Altruism

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738571
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918669 | DOI:
Culture–Gene Coevolution of Empathy and Altruism

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Conventional evolutionary biology theory posits that organisms adapt to their environment, and over time, exhibit favorable traits or characteristics that best enable them to survive and reproduce in their given environment, through the process of natural selection. More recently, dual inheritance theory or culture–gene coevolutionary theory has emerged, proposing that cultural traits are adaptive and influence the cultural environment under which genetic selection operates. This chapter examines the role that culture–gene coevolution plays in human empathy and altruism, and how human diversity in the psychological and neurobiological bases of empathy and altruism may arise as a by-product of culture–gene coevolutionary forces. Implications of human diversity in empathic experience and altruistic behavior for understanding intergroup conflict and global variation in macrolevel political systems are discussed.

Keywords: altruism; culture–gene coevolution; cultural neuroscience; empathy

Chapter.  4126 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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