Faculty of Biology and Psychology

Evolution of Cooperation and Prosocial Behavior

The evolutionary puzzle of cooperation between unrelated individuals is not fully solved yet. Especially, human cooperation stands out within the animal kingdom. For one, humans behave prosocial and selfless. Then again, they abstain from cooperating with others and act selfish. How can we explain this contradictory behavior? The Junior Research Group "Evolution of Cooperation and Prosocial Behavior" led by Prof. Dr. Dirk Semmann has devoted itself to answer this question and the like.
The centers of interest are the evolution and maintenance of cooperative behavior in humans. By inviting participants to interact in computer-assisted economic games, we attempt to answer our research questions. These economic games originate from game theory and allow us to investigate cooperation in various conflict situations. Furthermore, the experimental research is underpinned by the development and analysis of evolutionary models and simulations. Moreover, cooperative behavior can be investigated by comparative studies between humans and non-human primates. This approach is carried out within the Courant Research Center "Evolution of Social Behavior".
The complex social behavior of humans still gives many riddles. Therefore the research questions of our interdisciplinary group focus on reputation building, information exchange, reciprocity, ostracism, and punishment. A focal point is the study of the interaction between environmental structures (i.e. the ecological context) and prosocial behavior. Here, a key aspect is how human behavior is influenced by social network structures.