December 9, 2014

CARTA: Domestication and Human Evolution - Richard Wrangham: Did Homo sapiens Self-Domesticate?

In this talk Richard Wrangham (Harvard Univ) puts forth the theory that Homo sapiens are, in fact, a self-domesticated species. He defines “self-domestication” as the evolution of a reduced propensity for reactive aggression (compared to an immediate ancestor), without the active involvement of another species. He then shows that communal sanctions practiced by hunter-gatherers, which depend on proactive aggression, provide a leading candidate mechanism selecting against high levels of reactive aggression. He therefore proposes that human self-domestication is an ironic consequence of a particularly well-developed facility for proactive aggression, and concludes that humans did indeed self-domesticate, providing a critical underpinning for inter-individual tolerance and cooperation.