You are on page 1of 75

Jonathan Haidt:

Biological Theory
of Morality
Haidt: Biological Theory of Morality
How do people come to know what is right and wrong?
Haidt: moral knowledge fundamentally intuitive or
Social Intuitionist Model: moral emotions/intuitions and
moral reasoning work together to produce moral
judgments. Moral judgments are like aesthetic judgments
we make them quickly, intuitively, automatically. We know
what is right and wrong much the same way we know what
is beautiful and ugly. When called on to explain ourselves,
we make up reasons after the fact. Moral reasoning does
affect judgment, but this happens primarily in a social
context, as people talk, gossip and argue.
Chapt 1: Where Does Morality Come From

1. Re the origin of morality, what, according to Haidt, is the difference between nativism,
empiricism and rationalism? Which, if any, of these theories does Haidt favor?
nativism (inborn)
empiricism we learn them (thus morals vary extensively from one culture to another)
rationalism we construct them on the basis of our (social) experiences, but only as on
the mind develops (Piaget, Kohlberg, Turiel)
2. Note 7 (p 7) Haidt: infants may actually react to violations of fairness as early as 15
months (Schmidt & Sommerville 2011). Thats our seminar paper for Thursday (I will
present it, as an example of the kind of presentation I want folks to give).

3. What is Kohlbergs view of moral development? What is the difference between the pre-
conventional, conventional, and post-conventional stages? How does his view relate to
Piagets developmental theory?

4. What does Haidt mean when he says that American and W. European cultures have
stripped down and thinned out the thick, all-encompassing moral orders [typical of
original cultures]?
5. What is the distinction Turiel makes between moral rules and social conventions?
Chapt 1: Where Does Morality Come From
6. What is the distinction Shweder makes between individualistic and sociocentric cultures?
In his study, in what ways did individuals in in Hyde Park, Chicago differ from those in Orissa,
Shweder, Mahapatra & Miller 1987 Culture and Moral Development Shweder: all
societies must resolve a small set of questions about how to order society, the most
important being how to balance the needs of individuals and groups seem to be just
two primary ways of answering this question individualistic vs sociocentric cultures
latter is much more common no bright line separated morel rules (preventing harm)
from social conventions (regulating behaviors not linked directly to harm). Study
compared individuals who lived in Hyde Park, Chicago, and Brahmins in a town in Orissa,
India (Brahmins and untouchables).
7. What is Turiels major criticism of the Shweder et al study? In Haidts research, how did
he deal with this criticism?
That Shweder used trick questions didnt control by asking subjects about harm (e.g.,
wife is hurting her husband by eating a hot food which could lead her into having sex)
would they condemn actions that were harmless? Haidt used harmless taboo violations
(eating your dead dog, sex with chicken) most involve disgust or disrespect (but action
done in private, no one harmed)
Chapt 1: Where Does Morality Come From

8. What were the results of Haidts research. Did they favor Turiel or Shweder?
What was the biggest surprise in these results?

9. What is moral dumbfounding?

Person rendered speechless or searching for explanations when asked to explain

verbally what they knew intuitively.

10. What does Hume mean by reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the
passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey

That reason find the means to achieve whatever ends are chosen by the passions
(emotional intuitions).

In sum: Morality doesnt come primarily from reasoning, but some

combination of innate reactions and social learning.
Chapt 2. The Intuitive Dog and the Rational Tail
(Intuitions come first, reasoning follows)

1. How do (1) the rationalists, e.g., Plato, Kant and Kohlberg), (2) Jefferson, and (3) Hume
differ on the relative roles of reason and the passions in determining our behavior?

viewed sacrilized reason, thought that reason did (or should) rule the passions.
Jefferson perceived them as co-equals. Hume: reason the servant of the passions.

2. What were Darwins views on morality?

A nativist about morality. Thought that natural selection gave us minds that were
preloaded with moral emotions.

3. What is Social Darwinism?

Richest, most successful individuals, races, nations were the fittest [and thus deserved
what they had]. Giving charity interferes with the natural process of evolution.

4. What does E. O. Wilson mean by consilience?

5. de Waal: chimps have the building blocks of morality. See reading by de Waal.
Chapt 2. The Intuitive Dog and the Rational Tail
(Intuitions come first, reasoning follows)
6. According to Damasio, why does damage to the vm prefrontal cortex, which seems to rob
individuals of emotions, also significantly impairs their judgment:?
Cant murder someone, for example, because feelings of horror rush in without the
emotional basis, person knows right from wrong but its all academic. Thus every option
good or bad was as good as every other. Decision making was impaired in every area, even
ones that appeared to be purely rational (like picking the best washing machine).
7. What is the point of the cognitive load tasks? What did Haidt conclude from his studies
using these methods?
8. Would you drink roach juice? What you sell your soul even if it was a non-binding
9. Look carefully at Haidts social intuitionist model (summarized in Fig. 2.4). What is the
most likely route by which a person might change his or her moral judgment? How does
confirmation bias figure in here?
10. So, according to Haidt (and Dale Carnegie), what is the best way to try and change
someones mind on a moral issue?
Haidts Social Intuitionist Model
Chapt 3. Elephants Rule

1. What is meant by affective primacy?

2. If you havent already, try an Implicit Association Test:
3. Check out the Bloom Lab puppet shows:
4. How do psychopaths, discussed in this chapter, compare with Damasios patients with
damage to their vm prefrontal cortex, discussed in chapter 2?
5. What is the philosophers trolley problem? What is the utilitarian solution? What is the
deontological solution?
6. How can science possibly work if scientists are ruled by their elephants and inevitably
prone to confirmation bias?
7. The old saw about how to avoid argument (e.g., with your spouse) was count to 10
before you say (or do) something. What would Haidt give us a reason this may work (at
least some of the time)?
The Trolley Dilemma
Fig. 2. Schematic representation of the timing and anatomical localization of brain microstates in response
to accidental harm (top left) in the right posterior superior temporal sulcus (STS)/temporoparietal junction
(62140 ms) and to intentional harm (bottom left) in the right amygdala/temporal pole (122180 ms)
and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (182304 ms). Stimulus exemplars of the 2 classes of stimuli
(intentional and accidental harmful actions) are shown at right. Three transverse brain sections show the
estimated localization of the intracranial brain generators of the 3 main microstates.
Chapt 4: We are all intuitive politicians
Glaucon: most important principle for designing an ethical society is
to make sure that everyones reputation is on the line all the time, so
that bad behavior will always bring bad consequences.
When you see 100 insects working together toward a common goal,
its a sure bet theyre siblings. But when you see 100 people working
on a construction site or marching off to war, youd be astonished if
they all turned out to be members of one large family. Human beings
are the world champions of cooperation beyond kinship, and we do it
in large part by creating systems of formal and informal
Accountability: (Tetlock) Explicit expectation that one will be called
upon to justify ones beliefs, feeling or actions to others, coupled with
an expectation that people will reward or punish us based on how
well we justify ourselves. When nobody in answerable to anybody,
when slackers and cheaters go unpublished, everything falls apart.
Chapt 4: We are all intuitive politicians

Tetlocks view (we are all intuitive politicians striving to maintain

appealing moral identities in front of our multiple constituencies) vs.
view Kohlberg , Turiel, rationalists (children are little scientists who
use logic and experimentation to figure out the truth for themselves)
In physical world, we are rationalist, do converge on the truth.
But social world is different, Glauconian: appearance is usually far
more important than reality.
Exploratory thought: an evenhanded consideration of alternative
points of view
Confirmatory thought: a one-side attempt to rationalize a
particular point of view
Most of our thinking is confirmatory!
Chapt 4: We are all intuitive politicians

A central function of thought is make sure that one acts
in ways that can be persuasively justified or excused to
others. Indeed, the process of considering the
justifiability of ones choices may be so prevalent that
decision makers not only search for convincing reasons
to make a choice when they must explain that choice to
others, they search for reasons to convince themselves
that they have made the right choice.
Confirmation Bias in Action?
Wason Selection Task: Subject is asked to look for violations of a
conditional rule of the form If P then Q.
Rule: "If a card has an even number on one face, then its opposite face
is red.

Which card(s) must be turned over to see if this rule has been violated.
8 and brown cards only ~25% of subjects get this right!
8 and red = most common answer
We lie, cheat, and justify so well that
we honestly believe we are honest

Ariely (2008):
When given the opportunity, many honest people will
cheat. In fact, rather than finding a few bad apples
weight the averages, we discovered that the majority of
people cheated, and that they cheated just a little bit.
We can believe almost anything that
supports our team
Neural Bases of Motivated Reasoning: An fMRI Study of Emotional
Constraints on Partisan Political Judgment in the 2004 U.S.
Presidential Election
Drew Westen, Pavel S. Blagov, Keith Harenski, Clint Kilts & Stephan Hamann
Research on political judgment and decision-making has converged
with decades of research in clinical and social psychology suggesting
the ubiquity of emotion-biased motivated reasoning. Motivated
reasoning is a form of implicit emotion regulation in which the brain
converges on judgments that minimize negative and maximize
positive affect states associated with threat to or attainment of
motives. To what extent motivated reasoning engages neural circuits
involved in cold reasoning and conscious emotion regulation (e.g.,
suppression) is, however, unknown. We used functional
neuroimaging to study the neural responses of 30 committed
partisans during the U.S. Presidential election of 2004.
Westen et al: Neural Bases of Motivated Reasoning
Westen et al: Neural Bases of Motivated Reasoning

We presented subjects with reasoning tasks involving judgments

about information threatening to their own candidate, the
opposing candidate, or neutral control targets. Motivated
reasoning was associated with activations of the ventromedial
prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, posterior cingulate
cortex, insular cortex, and lateral orbital cortex. As predicted,
motivated reasoning was not associated with neural activity in
regions previously linked to cold reasoning tasks and conscious
(explicit) emotion regulation.
These findings provide the first neuroimaging evidence for
phenomena variously described as motivated reasoning, implicit
emotion regulation, and psychological defense. They suggest that
motivated reasoning is qualitatively distinct from reasoning when
people do not have a strong emotional stake in the conclusions
In Sum
First principle of moral psychology: Intuitions come first, strategic
reasoning second.
We are obsessively concerned about what others think of us,
although much of the concern in unconscious and invisible to us.
Conscious reasoning function like a press secretary who
automatically justifies any position taken by the president.
With the help of our press secretary, we are able to lie and cheat
often, and then cover it up so effectively that we convince even
Reasoning can take us to almost any conclusion we want to reach,
because we ask Can I believe it? when we want to believe
something, but Must I believe it when we dont want to.
In moral and political matters we are often groupish, rather than
selfish. We can believe almost anything that supports our team.
We can believe almost anything that
supports our team

Bill Moyers talk
start at ~2:30
Part II. Theres More to Morality than Harm and Fairness
Chapt 5. Beyond WEIRD Morality
Haidt tells the dead chicken story and then asks Can you tell
me why that was wrong?
Customer at McDonalds (after a long pause): You mean you
dont know why its wrong to do that to a dead chicken? I have
to explain this to you? What planet are you from?
Penn students typically judged the behavior in this story as ok (if
strange): Its his chicken, hes eating it, nobody is getting hurt.
WEIRD cultures: Western, educated, industrialized, rich and
democratic. The WEIRDer you are the more you see a world full
of separate objects, rather than relationships.
Similar to Shweders distinction of sociocentric vs. individualistic
Part II. Theres More to Morality than Harm and Fairness
Chapt 5. Beyond WEIRD Morality


Individualistic Sociocentric

Autonomy Interdependency

I am happy, outgoing, interested a son, a husband, an

in jazz employee of

Analytic Holistic

Philosophers Kant, Mill Durkheim (Chapt 8)

Psychologists Kohlberg, Turiel Shweder

Predominant moral Harm & fairness More than harm & fairness:
concern community, divinity
Part II. Theres More to Morality than Harm and Fairness
Chapt 5. Beyond WEIRD Morality

Shweder: Yet the conceptions held by others are available to

us, in the sense that when we truly understand their
conception of things we come to recognize possibilities latent
within our own rationality ... and those ways of conceiving of
things become salient for us for the first time, or once again.
In other words, there is no homogenous backcloth to our
world. We are multiple from the start.
Part II. Theres More to Morality than Harm and Fairness
Chapt 5. Beyond WEIRD Morality

Haidt: Our minds have the potential to become righteous about

many different concerns, and only a few of these concerns are
activated during childhood. Other potential concerns are [may be]
left undeveloped and unconnected to the web of shared
meanings and values that become our adult moral matrix.
If you grow up in a WEIRD society, you become so well
educated in the ethic of autonomy that you can detect
oppression and inequality even where the apparent victims see
nothing wrong...
Conversely, if you are raised in a more traditional society, or
within an evangelical Christian household in the U.S., you
becomes so well educated in the ethics of community and
divinity that you can detect disrespect and degradation even
where the apparent victims see nothing wrong...
Part II. Theres More to Morality than Harm and Fairness
Chapt 5. Beyond WEIRD Morality

Coming up:

Catalog of moral intuitions (more than harm and fairness)

How a small set of innate and universal moral foundations

can be used to construct a great variety of moral matrices

Tools for understanding moral arguments emanating from

matrices that are not your own
Part II. Theres More to Morality than Harm and Fairness
Chapt 6. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind
Morality is rich and complex, multifaceted, internally contradictory.
Pluralists such as Shweder rise to the challenge, offering theories
that can explain moral diversity within and across cultures.
Others reduce morality to a single principle, usually some variant
of welfare maximization or fairness, rights, respect for individuals.
Utilitarian Grill serves only sweeteners (welfare)
Deontological Diner serves only salts (rights)

Haidt & Shweder: moral monism the attempt to ground all of

morality on a single principle leads to societies that are
unsatisfying to most people and at high risk of becoming inhumane
because they ignore so many other principles.
Chapt 6. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind

The righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors. In this
analogy, morality is like cuisine: its a cultural construction,
influenced by accidents of environment and history, but its not so
flexible that anything goes Cuisines vary, but they all must please
tongues equipped with the same five taste receptors. Moral matrices
vary, but they all must please righteous minds equipped with the
same six social receptors.
Hume (according to Haidt): Philosophers who tried to reason their
way to moral truth without looking at human nature were no better
than theologians who thought they could find moral truth revealed
in sacred texts.
In the decade after Humes death the rationalists claimed victory
over religion and took the moral sciences off on a 200-year tangent.
Chapt 6. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind

Systemizers versus Empathizers

Empathizing: drive to identify another persons emotions and

thoughts, and to respond to these with the appropriate

Systemizing: drive to analyze the variables in a system, to

derive the underlying rules that govern the behavior of the

Autism: individual high on systemizing, low on empathizing.

Bentham and Kant: high on systemizing, low on empathizing.

Chapt 6. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind

Jeremy Benthams principle of utility: approves or disapproves an

action depending on whether it augments or diminishes the
individual's happiness. When multiple individuals are affected,
law should maximize the utility of the community (= of all the
individual utilities). Utilitarianism.
Consequentialist: moral worth of act judged by its consequences.
Immanuel Kants categorical imperative: Act only according to that
maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should
become a universal law. ( Golden Rule)
Deontological ethics: position that judges the morality of an action
based on the action's adherence to moral rules. Sometimes
described as "duty" or "obligation" or "rule"-based ethics.
Bentham and Kant both rationalists. Kohlberg too a rationalist and
his theory of moral development is Kantian.
Chapt 6. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind

S. Baron-Cohen
Chapt 6. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind
Moral Foundations Theory: an account of how five six innately-based
psychological systems form the foundation of an intuitive ethics,
and how each culture constructs its own sets of virtues on top of
these foundations.
Modular: mechanisms that are switched on by patterns that were
important for survival in a particular ecological niche (in the EEA),
and when they detect that pattern, they send out a signal that
changes the animals behavior in a way that is (usually) adaptive
(e.g., snake detectors, face detectors).
Moral receptors draw persons attention to certain kinds of events
(such as cruelty or disrespect), and trigger instant, intuitive reactions,
perhaps even specific emotions (such as sympathy or anger).
Role of cultural learning: Culture can modify, shrink or expand the
triggers. Distinguish between original and current triggers.
The Five Moral Foundations
1. Care/harm: Related to our long evolution as mammals with
attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of
others. Underlies compassion, empathy, kindness, nurturance.
2. Fairness/cheating: Related to the evolutionary process of
reciprocal altruism. Generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy.
3. Loyalty/betrayal: Related to our long history as tribal creatures
able to form shifting coalitions. Underlies virtues of patriotism and
self-sacrifice for the group. One for all, and all for one!"
4. Authority/subversion: Shaped by our long primate history of
hierarchical social interactions. Underlies virtues of leadership and
followership, including deference to legitimate authority, respect for
traditions and the fulfillment of role-based duties.
5. Sanctity/degradation: Shaped by the psychology of disgust and
contamination. Underlies religious notions of striving to live in an
elevated, less carnal, more noble way, idea that the body is a temple
which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants.
Chapt 7. The Moral Foundations of Politics
Homo economicus versus Homo Sapiens

Behind every act of altruism, heroism and human decency

youll find either selfishness or stupidity. That at least is the view
long held by man social scientists who accepted the idea that
Homo sapiens is really Homo economicus.
Chapt 7. The Moral Foundations of Politics
Homo economicus versus Homo Sapiens
Chapt 7. The Moral Foundations of Politics
Sidebar on Innateness (from Haidt The Righteous Mind)
It used to be risky for a scientist to assert than anything about
human behavior was innate. To back up such claims, you had to
show the trait was hardwired, unchangeable by experience, and
found in all cultures. With that definition, not much is innate, aside
for a few infant reflexes ... If you proposed that anything more
complex than that was innate particularly a sex difference youd
be told that there was a tribe somewhere on Earth that didnt show
the trait, so therefore its not innate Weve advanced a lot since
the 1970s in our understanding of the brain, and now we know that
that traits can be innate without being hardwired or universal. As
the neuroscientist Gary Marcus explains,
Nature bestows upon the newborn a considerably complex brain,
but one that is best seen as prewired flexible and subject to
change rather than hardwired, fixed and immutable.
Chapt 7. The Moral Foundations of Politics

To replace wiring diagrams, Marcus suggests a better analogy:

The brain is like a book, the first draft of which is written by the
genes during fetal development. No chapters are complete at
birth, and some are just rough outlines waiting to be filled in
during childhood. But not a single chapter be it on sexuality,
language, food preferences, or morality consists of blank pages
on which society can inscribe any conceivable set of words.
Marcuss analogy leads to the best definition of innateness I have
ever seen:

Nature provides a first draft, which experience then revises.

Built-in does not mean unmalleable; it means organized in
advance of experience.
The Moral Foundations

Cuteness primes us to care, nurture, protect, and interact. It gets the

elephant leaning the Care foundation can be triggered by any child.
A current trigger for the Care/Harm foundation
Lorenz on the
Cute Response
Baby schema modulates the brain reward system
in nulliparous women
Glocker et al PNAS 2009

Ethologist Konrad Lorenz

dened the baby schema as a
set of infantile physical
features, such as round face,
high forehead and big eyes,
that is perceived as cute and
motivates caretaking behavior
in animals including humans,
with the evolutionary function
of enhancing offspring
Baby schema modulates the brain reward system
in nulliparous women
Glocker et al PNAS 2009
Baby schema modulates the brain reward system
in nulliparous women
Glocker et al PNAS 2009

Using functional magnetic resonance

imaging and controlled manipulation
of the baby schema in infant faces, we
found that the baby schema activates
the nucleus accumbens, a key
structure of the mesocorticolimbic
system mediating reward processing
and appetitive motivation, in
nulliparous women. Our ndings
suggest that engagement of the
mesocorticolimbic system is the
neurophysiologic mechanism by which
baby schema promotes human
caregiving, regardless of kinship.
Baby schema modulates the brain reward system
in nulliparous women
Glocker et al PNAS 2009
Liberal and conservative caring
Fairness Left and Right
A car decorated with emblems of loyalty, and
a sign modified to reject one kind of loyalty
Two rather different valuations of the
Authority/subversion foundation
Two different views of the
Sanctity/degradation foundation
Fairness/ Loyalty/ Authority/ Sanctity/
Care/ harm
cheating betrayal subversion degradation
Protect and care Reap benefits Forge beneficial
Reap benefits
Adaptive for young, of two-way relationships Avoid microbes
of cohesive
challenge vulnerable or partnerships within and parasites
injured kin with non-kin hierarchies
distress, or Cheating, Threat or Signs of
Original Waste products,
neediness cooperation, challenge to dominance and
triggers diseased people
expressed by deception group submission
ones kin

Baby seals, Marital fidelity, Bosses, Taboo ideas

New Sports teams,
cute cartoon broken vending respected (communism,
triggers nations
characters machines professionals racism)

Group pride,
Characteristic Compassion, Anger,
belongingness, Respect, fear Disgust
emotions empathy gratitude, guilt
rage at traitors

Fairness, justice, Loyalty, Temperance,

Relevant Obedience,
Caring, kindness honesty patriotism, chastity, piety,
virtues deference
trustworthiness self-sacrifice cleanliness
Chapt 8. The Conservative Advantage
Chapt 8. The Conservative Advantage
Figure 8.3. The flag of Virginia, illustrating the Liberty/oppression foundation.
Figure 8.4. Liberal liberty: Interior of a coffee shop in New Paltz, New York. The sign on the
left says No one is free when others are oppressed. The flag on the right shows corporate
logos replacing stars on the American flag. The sign in the middle says How to end
violence against women and children
Figure 8.5.
Conservative liberty:
Car at a dormitory at Liberty
University, Lynchburg, VA.
The lower sticker says:
Libertarian: More freedom,
less government.
Figure 8.6. Fairness as proportionality. The right is usually
more concerned about catching and punishing free-riders
than is the left. (Campaign poster for the Conservative Party
in the U.K. parliamentary elections of 2010.)
Figure 8.7. A car in Charlottesville, Virginia, whose owner prefers
compassion to proportionality.
Chapt 9. Why are we so Groupish?

To this point, Haidts portrait of human nature somewhat

cynical Glaucon: we care more about looking good
than being good.
I do believe that you can understand most about moral
psychology by viewing it as a form of enlightened self-
We may be altruistic, but we are strategically altruistic,
not universally altruistic.
If moral psychology is fundamentally selfish then, it can be
explained by natural selection working at the level of
the individual.
Chapt 9. Why are we so Groupish?
But this portrait is incomplete: we are also groupish.
Although some mental modules designed to further our
own selfish interests, others are designed to further our
groups interests (perhaps at a cost to ourselves).
We are not saints, but we are sometimes good team
Do we have groupish mechanismsbecause groups that
succeeded in coalescing and cooperating outcompeted
groups that couldnt get it together? If so, then Im
invoking a process known as group selection, and
group selection was banished as a heresy from
scientific circles in the 1970s.
Chapt 9. Why are we so Groupish?

Haidt argues that group selection was falsely convicted

and unfairly banished.
Chapter plan: to present four pieces of new evidence that
he believes exonerate group selection (in some but not
all forms).
The new evidence demonstrates the value of thinking
about groups as real entities that compete with each
Evidence leads directly to the third and final principle of
moral psychology: Morality binds and blinds.
Chapt 9. Why are we so Groupish?

Haidt: human nature mostly selfish, but with a groupish

overlay that resulted from the fact that natural selection
works at multiple levels simultaneously .
Individuals compete with individuals within groups which
favors selfishness (including strategic cooperation),
Groups compete with groups between group competition
favors true team players.
These two processes [individual-level and group-level
selection] pushed human nature in different directions
and gave us the strange mix of selfishness and
selflessness that we know today.
Chapt 9. Why are we so Groupish?

Haidt: A gene for suicidal self-sacrifice would be favored

by group-level selection (it would help the team win),
but it would be so strongly opposed by selection at the
individual level that such a trait could evolve only species
such as bees, where competition within the hive has
been nearly eliminated and almost all selection is group
Footnote 13: Bees perfectly consistent with inclusive
fitness theory but [some] people who work with bees,
ants [etc.] sometimes say that multilevel selection helps
them see phenomena that are less visible when they
take the genes eye view.
Chapt 9. Why are we so Groupish?
Most groupish groups fare best. But how did early humans
get these groupish abilities? According to Darwin:
1. Social instincts (hang with the group)
2. Reciprocity
3. Concern with reputation (Glaucon) moral
sentiments sense of shame and love of glory evolved
by individual-level selection
4. Capacity to treat duties and principles as sacred (part
of our religious nature)
Free-riding no longer so attractive. Group-level selection
now becomes more potent. Groups now outcompete
and replace other groups.
Chapt 9. Why are we so Groupish?

Willliams: Morality is an accidental capability

produced, in its boundless stupidity, by a biological
process that is normally opposed to the expression
of such a capability.

Williams: only by a theory of between-group

selection could we achieve a scientific explanation
of group-related adaptations.
Haidt takes up this challenge.
Chapt 9. Why are we so Groupish?

Evidence for Group Selection (Exhibits):

A. Major Transitions
B. Shared Intentionality
Tomasello: youll never see 2 chimps carrying a log
C. Genes and Cultures Co-evolve
D. Evolution can be Fast
Lactose tolerance as example of C and D
Belayevs foxes as example of D
Chapt 9. Why are we so Groupish?

Evolution can be Fast

Belayevs foxes
Lactose Intolerance
Mammals stop drinking milk at weaning. They also stop producing
lactase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose (the main
carbohydrate in milk) into glucose and galactose (sugars that are
easily absorbed in the bloodstream and provide energy). Cessation
of both lactase production and milk drinking characterizes most
human populations, especially those of African and Asian descent.
In the majority of non-European populations, fresh milk is
considered an unpleasant substance to be consumed only as a last
resort. Lactose intolerance is the rule, and it is now clear that
lactose tolerant Europeans are atypical among humans (as well as
among all mammals).
Why do some humans, however, retain the ability to digest lactose?
A genetic mutation that maintains lactase production into
adulthood occurs among certain populations that practiced cattle
domestication. These individuals have the lactase persistence trait.
LM = lactose

Bloom & Sherman 2005

Masai Kenya
When nutrient rich nonhuman milk became widely available in pastoralist
societies, the rare genetic variations that allowed some adults to easily digest
lactose were selected for and this trait became more common.
Lactase persistence gene that has evolved in Africa has evolved independently
of the gene variants predominant in Europe.

Age of
% of Population Age of
Region Lactose Tolerant Gene
of Cattle
West 6000 to 7000 7700 to 9000
5 to 20%
Africa years ago years ago
East 2700 to 6800 3300 to 4500
26 to 88 %
Africa years ago years ago
Southern 8000 to 9000 8000 years
Europe years ago ago
Northern 2000 to 20,000 8000 years
Europe years ago ago
Chapt 9. Why are we so Groupish?
Group-related adaptation (= ?) requires group selection,
i.e., this adaption may be disfavored within the group, but
groups with this adaptation fare better than groups
without it. Altruists suffer within the group, but groups
with altruists outcompete groups without altruists. Note:
group selection still talking about gene-based traits.
Cultural selection is a form of group selection but it is not
gene-based. Good ideas concerning making tools, making
foods, avoiding poisons, keeping young alive, fighting,
etc., will spread with dispersal of individuals with this
knowledge into new groups. Its not genes that are
selected, but the ideas (memes).
The gene-based traits that are selected are mechanisms
for intelligence, having good ideas, learning and teaching.
Its Not All About War
Ive presented group selection so far in its simplest possible form: groups
compete with each other as if they were individual organisms, and the most
cohesive groups wipe out and replace the less cohesive ones during intertribal
warfare. Thats the way that Darwin first imagined it. But Lesley Newson points
I think it is important not to give readers the impression that
groups competing necessarily meant groups being at war or
fighting with one another. They were competing to be the most
efficient at turning resources into offspring. Dont forget that
women and children were also very important members of
these groups.
Of course shes right. Group selection does not require war or violence. Whatever
traits make a group more efficient at procuring food and turning it into children
makes that group more fit than its neighbors. Group selection pulls for
cooperation, for the ability to suppress antisocial behavior and to spur individuals
to act in ways that benefit their groups. Group-serving behaviors sometimes
impose a terrible cost on outsiders (as in warfare). But in general, groupishness is
focused on improving the welfare of the ingroup, not on harming an outgroup.