Evolution of fairness driven by culture, not genes

interns Contributor
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Human behaviors are often explained as hard-wired evolutionary leftovers of life on the savannah or during the Stone Age. But a study of one very modern behavior, fairness toward total strangers one will never meet again, suggests it evolved recently, and is rooted in culture rather than biology.

In a series of three behavioral tests given to 2,100 people in societies around the world, an innate sense of fairness dovetailed with participation in markets and major religions. Generally speaking, these use social norms and informal institutions to promote fairness, which allow societies to become larger and more complex.

Biologically speaking, people in the study weren’t fundamentally different from their circa-200,000 B.C. ancestors, or from each other. What differed was their cultural DNA.

Full story: Evolution of Fairness Driven by Culture, Not Genes | Wired Science |