The condition of man is a condition of war, wrote 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes. A quick glance through history books and today's news headlines certainly seems to support the longstanding idea that humans by nature are aggressive, selfish and antagonistic.
But this view simply doesn't fit with scientific facts, write researchers featured in the new book "Origins of Altruism and Cooperation" (Springer, 2011), edited by Robert W. Sussman, PhD, and C. Robert Cloninger, MD. The book's authors argue that humans are naturally cooperative, altruistic and social, only reverting to violence when stressed, abused, neglected or mentally ill.
The book, which now is available, presents evidence supporting this idea from a range of academic perspectives, including anthropology, psychiatry, biology, sociology, religion, medicine and more.
"Cooperation isn't just a byproduct of competition, or something done only because both parties receive some benefit from the partnership," says Sussman, professor of physical anthropology in Arts & Sciences. "Rather, altruism and cooperation are inherent in primates, including humans."
For example, Sussman says, chimpanzees have been observed to adopt unrelated, orphaned infants, despite the significant amount of effort and time required to care for the infants.
Sussman and Cloninger write in the book's preface that examining the influences that underlie human behavior is critical to understanding why conflicts arise among peoples and nations in the modern world and to finding the best ways to promote peaceful, productive interaction among humans worldwide.
"Prosocial behavior is an essential component of health and happiness in human beings," says Cloninger, the Wallace Renard Professor of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine. "Selfish and uncooperative behavior, on the other hand, is a sign of mental dysfunction because it is strongly associated with life dissatisfaction and
|Contact: Jessica Daues|
Washington University in St. Louis