All of us have intuitions about and experiences with altruism. Are humans really altruistic, or do we help others merely to further our self-interest? Is altruism a specifically human phenomenon, or do non-human animals also make sacrifices for others? What can scientists tell us about our propensity for generosity? Evolutionary anthropologist Karthik Panchanathan joins us from UCLA’s Center for Behavior, Evolution and Culture to discuss the ways in which our capacity for helping others is investigated across scientific disciplines. Learn how different fields do and do not agree on altruism and where cultural notions of fairness intersect and diverge. Find out how research on everything from chickens to economics informs our collective understanding of altruistic behavior — and how using models and even game theory might help us understand why individuals sacrifice for others.
During the presentation, we’ll re-create an experiment designed to reveal aspects of fairness. This experiment was run on peoples the world over, from university undergraduates to Amazonian hunter-gatherers to Highland New Guineans, showing us that people in general have a shared notion of fairness, with some notable cross-cultural differences.
Karthik Panchanathan’s research investigates the evolution of human cooperation and culture. He draws inspiration from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, evolutionary biology, economics, and psychology. With a combination of theoretical modeling and experiments, he is interested in questions like, What mechanisms explain the extent of human cooperation and competition? How does our capacity for learning and cultural transmission change the rules of game when it comes to human evolution and adaptation?
Official Website: http://www.exploratorium.edu
Added by ExplOratorium SF on December 9, 2008