The Evolution of Moral Norms

Dennis L. Krebs

in The Origins of Morality

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199778232
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897261 | DOI:
The Evolution of Moral Norms

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This chapter contains an account of how culturally universal and culturally specific moral norms evolved. Norms evolve when members of groups make rules to formalize agreements about how they should behave in order to uphold the social order. The rules and sanctions that members of groups create to control the behavior of others end up controlling their own behavior. People serve as agents of selection, determining which standards and customs get repeated and develop into moral norms. Norms such as the norm of reciprocity and the Golden Rule that prescribe fair and reversible solutions to social conflicts are universal because they uphold mutually-beneficial forms of cooperation and enable people to resolve their conflicts of interest in optimal ways. However, the content of specific moral norms may vary within and across cultures for a variety of adaptive and maladaptive reasons.

Keywords: moral norms; rules; sanctions; social order; selection; norm of reciprocity; Golden Rule; conflicts of interest

Chapter.  4995 words. 

Subjects: Psychology

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