Psychological and Neurological Sources of Uniquely Human Forms of Prosocial Conduct

Dennis L. Krebs

in The Origins of Morality

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199778232
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897261 | DOI:
Psychological and Neurological Sources of Uniquely Human Forms of Prosocial Conduct

Show Summary Details


In this chapter, it is argued that because uniquely-human forms of prosocial conduct stem from mechanisms in the human brain, understanding how the brain evolved supplies a basis for understanding them. Runaway “arm race” process, such as those involved in sexual selection, the selection of social strategies, and the evolution of culture, were probably implicated in the expansion and refinement of the human brain. Humans’ large brains enable them to create and manipulate images and ideas in their heads, which increases their capacity to learn, to remember, to plan, to predict, to perform mental simulations, to reason, and to engage in creative thinking. Humans’ capacity for language contributed to the expansion and refinement of prosocial behaviors in several ways. Although advanced cognitive abilities endow people with the capacity to engage in uniquely-human prosocial behaviors, they do not necessarily generate the motivation to enact them.

Keywords: uniquely-human prosocial behaviors; evolution of the brain; runaway processes; arms races; memory; planning; mental simulation; reason; creative thinking; language

Chapter.  7372 words. 

Subjects: Psychology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.