Mindreading and cooperation are among the abilities that appear to be uniquely elaborated in humans. Is this a coincidence? Are these each distinct specializations, are they part of the same underlying ability, or are they byproducts of something else entirely? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to examine how these abilities cohere or fractionate within and across individuals and societies.
Using data from multi-site cross-cultural studies, Clark Barrett, biological anthropologist specializing in evolutionary psychology at University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that uniquely derived mechanisms of cooperation and mindreading in humans can be combined in diverse ways across individuals and societies to produce a spectrum of context-specific moral judgments. This proposal has the potential to explain why the role of intentionality in human social life can be so different than in other primates—and therefore human-specific—and yet also so flexible and variable across people and contexts.
Free and open to the public. Sponsored by the Anthropology Club and the Office of Research and Graduate Education. For more information, contact Bonnie Hewlett.