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The role of writing and recordkeeping in the cultural evolution of human cooperation

Author

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  • Mullins, Daniel A.
  • Whitehouse, Harvey
  • Atkinson, Quentin D.

Abstract

Efforts to account for the emergence of large-scale cooperative human societies have focused on a range of cultural advances, from the advent of agriculture to the emergence of new forms of political regulation and social identification. Little attention has been accorded to the role of writing and recordkeeping in cultural evolution. Recent insights garnered here from behavioural economics, palaeography, grammatology, evolutionary psychology, and anthropology suggest that writing and recordkeeping helps to solve the problem of cooperation in large groups by transcending the severe limitations of our evolved psychology through the elaboration of four cooperative tools – (1) reciprocal behaviours, (2) reputation formation and maintenance, (3) social norms and norm enforcement, and (4) group identity and empathy.

Suggested Citation

  • Mullins, Daniel A. & Whitehouse, Harvey & Atkinson, Quentin D., 2013. "The role of writing and recordkeeping in the cultural evolution of human cooperation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages 141-151.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:90:y:2013:i:s:p:s141-s151
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2012.12.017
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    References listed on IDEAS

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