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The Evolutionary Ecology of Cooperation & Conflict: A case study of Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland

Silva, AS; (2015) The Evolutionary Ecology of Cooperation & Conflict: A case study of Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The evolution of large-scale cooperation in humans presents one of the most crucial evolutionary puzzles yet to be solved. Two theoretical frameworks - inclusive fitness and cultural group selection – have been proposed to explain this evolutionary dilemma. Inclusive fitness theory expects individuals to behave according to an individual fitness maximising strategy, which varies with individual and ecological parameters. Cultural group selection proposes that inter-group competition permits the evolution of group beneficial traits, such as altruism, through the differential survival and reproduction of groups. Empirically, a cultural group selection framework has yet to be accurately tested. Studies measuring cooperative behaviour tend to rely on economic games - whose real world validity is increasingly being questioned - and fail to distinguish between different targets of cooperative behaviour (i.e. out-group, in-group or unbiased). The main aims of this thesis are to empirically test cultural group selection theories on the evolution of cooperation through inter-group conflict and religion, and to determine how ecological and individual characteristics affect the variation in cooperative behaviour. I use naturalistic measures of cooperation (donations, lost letters, dropped coins and lost tourist experiments) to quantify the variation in the cooperative behaviour of Catholics and Protestants - two endogamous groups with an on-going and long history of violent conflict - in a sample of different neighbourhoods in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Overall, I find that conflict and religiosity do not increase cooperative behaviour towards the in-group, with individual and neighbourhood socio-economic characteristics being the main positive predictors of cooperation across all the measures. These findings challenge the current cultural group selection perspectives on the origins of human cooperation and highlight the importance of using real world measures of cooperation to empirically test theories on the evolution of cooperation.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The Evolutionary Ecology of Cooperation & Conflict: A case study of Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1472212
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