In the new study at the University of Tennessee, researchers developed a mathematical model that offers answers to how humans evolved high intelligence, required for complex collaborative activities, despite the various costs of having a big brain and how did humans evolve strong innate preferences for cooperative behavior, as cooperative behavior is vulnerable to exploitation by cheaters and "free-riders."
The research, which points to the types of collective actions that are most effective at hastening collaboration, shows that intelligence and cooperative behavior can co-evolve to solve the problem of collective action in groups and also, to overcome the costs of having a large brain.
The study also predicts that if high collaborative ability cannot evolve, perhaps for example because the costs of having a big brain are too high, the species will harbor a small proportion of individuals with a genetic predisposition to perform individually-costly but group-beneficial acts.
In addition, the model challenges influential theories on when large-game hunting and within-group coalitions first appeared in humans. Some scientists say that within-group coalitions and collaborative hunting came first and then subsequently created conditions for the evolution of collaboration in between-group conflicts.
The study is published in the Journal of Royal Society Interface.
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