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The Normative Animal?On the Anthropological Significance of Social, Moral, and Linguistic Norms$
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Neil Roughley and Kurt Bayertz

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190846466

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190846466.001.0001

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The Evolution of Human Normativity

The Evolution of Human Normativity

The Role of Prosociality and Reputation Management

Chapter:
(p.139) 7 The Evolution of Human Normativity
Source:
The Normative Animal?
Author(s):

Carel P. van Schaik

Judith M. Burkart

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190846466.003.0007

Normative behavior is a human universal that is intimately linked to morality. Morality is an adaptation to the specifically human subsistence niche of hunting and gathering, which is skill-intensive and therefore relies on transmission of opaque knowledge and involves critical interdependence, reliance on coordinated division of labor, and synchronized collective action. This lifestyle requires the presence of a variety of emotions that coevolved with it as the proximate mechanisms enabling this adaptive function. The high-urgency feel to many of these emotions reflects their functional importance: it serves to give them priority over other motivations. It is also what, to contemporary humans, makes them recognizable as moral. The key components of human morality are (1) prosocial emotions, and (2) an urge to conform. Together, they produce the urge to comply with moral norms. Normativity is thus an integral part of human morality. It evolved when two preferences came together. Strong informational conformity, needed to enable the transmission of opaque knowledge, was already present in the anthropoid primate ancestors of hominids and hominins. The added component evolved with the evolution of strong interdependence: a strong concern for one’s reputation and fear of punishment, and thus strongly prosocial emotions. Thus, the emergence of normativity in our ancestors does not require a special explanation: it was an automatic byproduct of the emergence of moral behavior in our ancestors.

Keywords:   morality, prosociality, emotions, hunter-gatherer, informational conformity, normative conformity

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