We develop a cultural evolutionary theory of the origins of prosocial religions and apply it to resolve two puzzles in human psychology and cultural history: (1) the rise of large-scale cooperation among strangers and, simultaneously, (2) the spread of prosocial religions in the last 10–12 millennia. We argue that these two developments were importantly linked and mutually energizing. We explain how a package of culturally evolved religious beliefs and practices characterized by increasingly potent, moralizing, supernatural agents, credible displays of faith, (...) and other psychologically active elements conducive to social solidarity promoted high fertility rates and large-scale cooperation with co-religionists, often contributing to success in intergroup competition and conflict. In turn, prosocial religious beliefs and practices spread and aggregated as these successful groups expanded, or were copied by less successful groups. This synthesis is grounded in the idea that although religious beliefs and practices originally arose as nonadaptive by-products of innate cognitive functions, particular cultural variants were then selected for their prosocial effects in a long-term, cultural evolutionary process. This framework (1) reconciles key aspects of the adaptationist and by-product approaches to the origins of religion, (2) explains a variety of empirical observations that have not received adequate attention, and (3) generates novel predictions. Converging lines of evidence drawn from diverse disciplines provide empirical support while at the same time encouraging new research directions and opening up new questions for exploration and debate. (shrink)
Although pride has been central to philosophical and religious discussions of emotion for thousands of years, it has largely been neglected by psychologists. However, in the past decade a growing body of psychological research on pride has emerged; new theory and findings suggest that pride is a psychologically important and evolutionarily adaptive emotion. In this article we review this accumulated body of research and argue for a naturalist account of pride, which presumes that pride emerged by way of natural selection. (...) In this view, pride is prevalent in human life because of the functional and adaptive role it has played in the attainment, maintenance, and communication of social status throughout our evolutionary history. (shrink)
In our response to the 27 commentaries, we refine the theoretical claims, clarify several misconceptions of our framework, and explore substantial disagreements. In doing so, we show that our framework accommodates multiple historical scenarios; debate the historical evidence, particularly about “pre-Axial” religions; offer important details about cultural evolutionary theory; clarify the termprosociality;and discuss proximal mechanisms. We review many interesting extensions, amplifications, and qualifications of our approach made by the commentators.
Williams and DeSteno (2010) and Gladkova (2010) question the validity, utility, and theoretical support for the bifurcation of pride into hubristic and authentic facets. Though these commentators highlight unanswered questions and important directions for future research, we argue that the broad, evolutionarily informed framework for the two facets, presented in our target article nonetheless provides the best fit and explanation for the existing pattern of evidence. We offer several empirical suggestions for future studies addressing the questions raised by the commentators, (...) and emphasize the need for emotion researchers to hew closely to empirical data in developing theoretical accounts. (shrink)
Inducing religious thoughts increases prosocial behavior among strangers in anonymous contexts. These effects can be explained both by behavioral priming processes as well as by reputational mechanisms. We examine whether belief in moralizing supernatural agents supplies a case for what McKay & Dennett (M&D) call evolved misbelief, concluding that they might be more persuasively seen as an example of culturally evolved misbelief.
We extend the target authors' moral disciplining theory (MDT) by discussing signaling, proscriptive and prescriptive morality, and the dynamics by which signaling may operate in tandem with proscriptive and prescriptive forms of moral disciplining. We also suggest that MDT can help explain challenges to economic and social progress by revealing fundamental tensions between puritanical intuitions and liberal ideals.
In Clark’s thoughtful analysis of the evolution of the two facets of pride, he suggests that the concurrent existence of hubristic and authentic pride in humans represents a “persistence problem,” wherein the vestigial trait (hubristic pride) continues to exist alongside the derived trait (authentic pride). In our view, evidence for the two facets does not pose a persistence problem; rather, hubristic and authentic pride both likely evolved as higher-order cognitive emotions that solve uniquely human—but distinct— evolutionary problems. Instead of being (...) conceptualized as serial homologues, with one the vestigial form of the other, we argue that hubristic and authentic pride are both derived homologues of a vestigial proto-pride emotion that existed in our shared ancestry with other primates. (shrink)