The evolution of peace

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Abstract

While some species have affiliative and even cooperative interactions between individuals of different social groups, humans are alone in having durable, positive-sum, interdependent relationships across unrelated social groups. Our capacity to have harmonious relationships that cross group boundaries is an important aspect of our species' success, allowing for the exchange of ideas, materials, and ultimately enabling cumulative cultural evolution. Knowledge about the conditions required for peaceful intergroup relationships is critical for understanding the success of our species and building a more peaceful world. How do humans create harmonious relationships across group boundaries and when did this capacity emerge in the human lineage? Answering these questions involves considering the costs and benefits of intergroup cooperation and aggression, for oneself, one's group, and one's neighbor. Taking a game theoretical perspective provides new insights into the difficulties of removing the threat of war and reveals an ironic logic to peace-the factors that enable peace also facilitate the increased scale and destructiveness of conflict. In what follows, I explore the conditions required for peace, why they are so difficult to achieve, and when we expect peace to have emerged in the human lineage. I argue that intergroup cooperation was an important component of human relationships and a selective force in our species history beginning at least 300 thousand years. But the preconditions for peace only emerged in the past 100 thousand years and likely coexisted with intermittent intergroup violence which would have also been an important and selective force in our species' history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2862
JournalBehavioral and Brain Sciences
Volume47
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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