A Trusting Ecology: How Neural Mechanisms and Environments Interact to Enable Cooperative Behavior

Posted: 16 May 2010

See all articles by William Casebeer

William Casebeer

United States Air Force - Joint Warfare Analysis Center

Date Written: May 14, 2010

Abstract

Recent research into the neurobiology of trust allows us to construct a tentative cradle-to-grave understanding of how social creatures like ourselves come to engage in cooperative behavior. Innovative work ranging from the molecular neurotransmitter level up to that of neural systems enables insight into how we sustain cooperation using important neural mechanisms such as theory of mind. This work has been complemented by an understanding of the environments which sustain appropriate use of those mechanisms, including trust-related “scaffolding” generated by social and cultural mechanisms (such as extra-legal conventions and norms). Using metaphors from the science of evolutionary development, I argue that just as that science has progressed leveraging an ecological approach to development, we need a similarly robust co-evolutionary approach that places equal weight on “mechanism” and “environment” to gain insight into generating and sustaining cooperative behavior in human beings.

Suggested Citation

Casebeer, William, A Trusting Ecology: How Neural Mechanisms and Environments Interact to Enable Cooperative Behavior (May 14, 2010). Gruter Institute Squaw Valley Conference 2010: Law, Institutions & Human Behavior, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1608114

William Casebeer (Contact Author)

United States Air Force - Joint Warfare Analysis Center ( email )

7170 Kitchen Drive
King George, VA 22485
United States

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