Natural Conflict Resolution (3)

This will be my last post about the book, which I gave four stars on goodreads. You can read my previous posts about the book here and here.

The last part had some interesting stuff, but I think I liked some of the chapters in the middle best. There are obvious parallels to be drawn between the coverage in a few of the last chapters and some of the work of Boyd and Richerson, though these guys’ approach and methodology is quite different.

I’ve included some stuff from the last part of the book below. Although I haven’t exactly read the works of a lot of moral philosophers (except perhaps random quotes of theirs – I’ve probably read quite a few of those over the years), I do think that some of the ideas and observations included in this part of the book are ideas and observations which many of them might benefit (/have benefited) from knowing (/more) about.

“The social interactions between two animals depend not only on their individual characteristics (e.g., age, sex, dominance rank, temperament) but also on the history of interactions between them, provided that they possess the capacity for individual recognition, have sufficient memory to remember the outcome of social interactions, and repeatedly meet each other. The two animals can thus be said to have developed a social relationship. This relationship is not directly visible. Observers decide it exists because the history of previous interactions allows them to predict the outcome of subsequent interactions between the same animals […]. Of course, it also allows the animals to predict the actions and responses of the partner with reasonable accuracy. This makes social intercourse much more efficient, obviating the need for thorough reassessment of the partner’s strength and possible other qualities every time they come close, which is why the establishment of relationships is adaptive for the participants. […] Social behavior is about conflict and cooperation, and relationships characterized by only one of these two probably do not exist. Even the most collaborative relationships tend to contain an element of competition — for instance, because collaborators need to decide on how to divide the benefits of their cooperative effort […] social relationships always contain elements of both cooperation and competition.”

“The partners in an established relationship need to communicate about their relative balance of power (i.e., physical strength and social influence) and about the exchange rate of services. The need for some form of communication is clear in even the simplest relationship. For example, individuals can alternate grooming each other and thus provide benefits in terms of hygiene […], tension reduction […], and endorphin release […] By varying the duration and frequency of their own grooming bouts, the partners can express their perceived relative power in the relationship and, through refusals of grooming invitations or variations in length, negotiate the actual power balance. Communication about the relationship is all the more important because the partners’ values change all the time. Individual qualities, such as strength or experience, change over time, as do their needs for services. External factors—for instance, group composition—may change the value of a partner because they affect the number of other group members who can offer the same service [these effects are termed ‘market effects’ in the literature] […] Changing assessments can be communicated by ceasing to support or share, by taking larger shares than before, or even by punishing partners after they failed to reciprocate […] Communication before engaging in the interaction […] is critical when interactions involve high risks, especially when the partners do not have reliable relationships. Agonistic support between males is a prime example because it involves high risks and because male alliances are fickle.”

“Given the dynamic nature of relationships, it is critical for one or both partners to establish whether the conflict signifies a growing mismatch in the assessments of each other’s value or whether it is a mere hiccup in an otherwise unchanged relationship. We believe this is why reconciliation evolved […] Reconciliation can be viewed as communication about the value of the relationship: it shows how much each partner is interested in the relationship and thereby is willing to repair it after the disturbance due to the conflict. According to this view, reconciliation is not only an effective way to end the conflict but is also a primary tool for relationship management […] The most important generalization to emerge from two decades of work on reconciliation (i.e., post-conflict friendly reunion between opponents) in primates is that individuals that reconcile are likely to have a strong social bond (de Waal, Chapter 2; Cords & Aureli, Chapter 9).”

“In primates, the benefits [of relationships] include selective tolerance around resources […], cooperative hunting […], food sharing […], services for mating privileges […], agonistic support, and protection against harassment. The last two are probably the most widespread and critical benefits related to relationship-dependent cooperation in primates. […] A coalition takes place when individuals support one another in an agonistic conflict […] An alliance is a type of relationship in which the two partners repeatedly form coalitions. Thus, coalitions are interactions that can be formed on a case-by-case basis, whereas alliances are enduring cooperative relationships […] The basic rule for coalitions and alliances is simple: they should be formed when they improve access to limiting resources for both partners […] The limiting resources are usually different for the two sexes because the fitness of males and females is limited by very different factors […] Male mammals […] usually contribute little to the development of the young. […] females usually compete for food or shelter, whereas males compete for mating opportunities (Emlen & Oring 1977).”

“Some of the most significant threats faced by female primates are social ones, in particular, sexual harassment and infanticide by males. Protective bonds between females, and especially those between males and females, may serve to reduce these social threats […] Species with lactational amenorrhea are vulnerable to infanticide by males unlikely to have fathered the infant, because this will speed up the female’s next conception. Many primates have lactational amenorrhea; male infanticide is reported for a remarkably high proportion of primate species […]. Yet male infanticide is rare in most of the species in which it occurs. Perhaps this is because of effective social counterstrategies […] Associations and social relationships can often be seen as strategies to reduce the negative impact of some challenge. Paradoxically, the selective forces that produced particular social behavior are often hard to discern because the behavior it has produced is effective in eliminating the fitness impact of these ultimate causes. Hence, their action is rarely apparent.”

“Among primate males, strong bonds to maintain alliances are expected to serve to improve mating access to females, and indeed they do. However, they are less common and shorter-lived than those among females […]. In various primate species, only a single male stays in a group of females, preventing the establishment of male bonds. But even in the all-male bands commonly found in these species […] or in many species with multimale groups, male bonds are not pervasive. The reasons for this are largely speculative at this stage. […] Most examples of male-female alliances are from species with limited sexual dimorphism, in which males and females can potentially provide mutual agonistic support.”

“When a group is faced with external threats, relationships within the group and with allies increase in importance. Group pressure is exerted on disputants to reconcile conflicts that threaten valued defensive alliances or solidarity. […] in-group/out-group distinctions are also a very salient dimension of nonhuman primate interactions.”

“we make two fundamental assertions regarding the evolution of morality: (1) there are specific types of behavior demonstrated by both human and nonhuman primates that hint at a shared evolutionary background to morality; and (2) there are theoretical and actual connections between morality and conflict resolution in both nonhuman primates and human development. […] the transition from nonmoral or premoral to moral is more gradual than commonly assumed. No magic point appears in either evolutionary history or human development at which morality suddenly comes into existence. In both early childhood and in animals closely related to us, we can recognize behaviors (and, in the case of children, judgments) that are essential building blocks of the morality of the human adult. […] The obvious common ground between current evolutionary and developmental approaches is that, instead of looking at human morality as coming from the outside — imposed by adults on the passive child, or imposed by culture on a fundamentally nasty human nature — it is generated from the inside. What we mean by “inside” is not that things happen in isolation from outside influences: evolution operates on the basis of ecological pressures, which come from the outside, and development takes place in constant interplay with the outside world. What we mean instead is that the decision making and emotions underlying moral judgments are generated within the individual rather than being simply imposed by society. They are a product of evolution, an integrated part of the human genetic makeup, that makes the child construct a moral perspective through interactions with other members of its species. […] Much research has shown that children acquire morality through a social-cognitive process; children make connections between acts and consequences. Through a gradual process, children develop concepts of justice, fairness, and equality, and they apply these concepts to concrete everyday situations (Killen & Hart 1995).”

“From our perspective, we assert that emotions such as empathy and sympathy provide an experiential basis by which children construct moral judgments. Emotional reactions from others, such as distress or crying, provide experiential information that children use to judge whether an act is right or wrong […] when a child hits another child, a crying response provides emotional information about the nature of the act, and this information enables the child, in part, to determine whether and why the transgression is wrong. Therefore, recognizing signs of distress in another person may be a basic requirement of the moral judgment process. The fact that responses to distress in another have been documented both in infancy and in the nonhuman primate literature provides initial support for the idea that these types of moral-like experiences are common to children and nonhuman primates. As an illustration, de Waal (1996) documents reactions to distressed individuals and the tendency to share food with others. Generally, it seems that our closest relatives, the great apes, go further in this regard than more distantly related primates, such as the monkeys. For example, “consolation” has thus far been demonstrated only in chimpanzees despite systematic attempts to find it in monkeys. Consolation is defined as friendly or reassuring contact provided by a bystander to a recipient of aggression […]. In the chimpanzee, this kind of interaction typically consists of putting an arm around the victim or patting him or her gently on the back or shoulder. Because of the contrast between monkeys and apes in this regard, de Waal & Aureli (1996) have recently speculated that consolation may require empathy. Since higher forms of empathy and sympathy require the ability to take someone else’s perspective, the difference may result from Hominoids (i.e., humans and apes) possessing this ability but not monkeys.”

“No biologist and few social scientists would deny that our species has natural aggressive potentials, but we possess many other natural tendencies as well, some of which serve to keep aggression in check. Thus, to call us naturally peaceful (which is, after all, a state observed far more often than war and strife) would be at least as justified as calling us naturally aggressive.”

“the “ought” question, which has occupied moral philosophers over the ages, may reach all the way back to rather mundane mechanisms of how to get along and when to repair relationships.”

June 27, 2014 - Posted by | Anthropology, Biology, Books, ethics, Evolutionary biology, Zoology

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: