Psychology, Department of


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Published in Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 36 (2005), pp. 499-518; doi: 10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.36.113004.083814 Copyright © 2005 Annual Reviews Inc. Used by permission.


Cooperation is common across nonhuman animal taxa, from the hunting of large game in lions to the harvesting of building materials in ants. Theorists have proposed a number of models to explain the evolution of cooperative behavior. These ultimate explanations, however, rarely consider the proximate constraints on the implementation of cooperative behavior. Here we review several types of cooperation and propose a suite of cognitive abilities required for each type to evolve. We propose that several types of cooperation, though theoretically possible and functionally adaptive, have not evolved in some animal species because of cognitive constraints. We argue, therefore, that future modeling efforts and experimental investigations into the adaptive function of cooperation in animals must be grounded in a realistic assessment of the psychological ingredients required for cooperation. Such an approach can account for the puzzling distribution of cooperative behaviors across taxa, especially the seemingly unique occurrence of cooperation observed in our own species.