Evolution of responses to (un)fairness.

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Brosnan, Sarah F; de Waal, Frans B M
Year of Publication: 2014
Journal: Science
Volume: 346
Issue: 6207
Pagination: 1251776
Date Published: 2014 Oct 17
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1095-9203
Keywords: Animals, Biological Evolution, Cooperative Behavior, Hominidae, Humans, Phylogeny, Reward, Social Discrimination, Social Justice

The human sense of fairness is an evolutionary puzzle. To study this, we can look to other species, in which this can be translated empirically into responses to reward distribution. Passive and active protest against receiving less than a partner for the same task is widespread in species that cooperate outside kinship and mating bonds. There is less evidence that nonhuman species seek to equalize outcomes to their own detriment, yet the latter has been documented in our closest relatives, the apes. This reaction probably reflects an attempt to forestall partner dissatisfaction with obtained outcomes and its negative impact on future cooperation. We hypothesize that it is the evolution of this response that allowed the development of a complete sense of fairness in humans, which aims not at equality for its own sake but for the sake of continued cooperation.

DOI: 10.1126/science.1251776
Alternate Journal: Science