Advertising cooperative phenotype through costly signals

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LANG Martin

Year of publication 2021
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Around the world, people engage in practices that involve self-inflicted pain, wasted resources and time and energy investments. Researchers hailing from various disciplines theorise that these practices evolved to stabilise within-group cooperation by assorting individuals committed to collective action. Specifically, costly practices function as signals of hidden cooperative phenotype and these practices may be afforded only by individuals with high phenotypic quality. However, while this proposition was previously studied using existing religious practices, the trade-off in such ecologically valid studies is the lack of manipulation allowing to discern the specific role of costly practices in assorting co-operators. In this talk, I will present our pursuit of this question using experimental manipulation in multiple studies tracking the effects of costly signals on cooperative assortment in both laboratory designs devoid of cultural context as well as in studies of various cultural groups. I will discuss the difficulties and limitations of such manipulations as well as the complex picture of human signalling that the results allow us to paint, with a particular focus on religious systems, which appear to be the frequent context of commitment signalling in the human cultural setting.
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