2017 Karlovitz Lecture: Frans B. M. de Waal

Primary tabs

The Georgia Tech Honors Program and the College of Sciences welcome the Emory University Psychology Professor Frans B.M. de Waal on 'Is Human Cooperation an Anomaly? Lessons from Other Animals'

In the 1970s and 80s, humans were as selfish and unaltruistic as the rest of the animal kingdom. Nature was dog-eat-dog. Since the turn of the millennium, however, there has been an attempt to set humans apart. We were declared the only true altruists, and the only genuinely cooperative species. We did not just exhibit regular reciprocity, but strong reciprocity. Behavioral economists began to call human cooperation a “huge anomaly” in the natural world. We were the only ones to care about the welfare of others, and the only ones with joint intentionality. But if all of this were true, how come our best theories about the evolution of cooperation and altruism stem from the study of animal behavior? Every biologist knows that cooperation is ubiquitous. I will argue that the whole movement to elevate human cooperation above the rest is built on sand. We find human-animal continuity in every domain, from empathy, cooperation, partner choice, and the role of oxytocin to reciprocal exchange and the sense of fairness. My review will concern manifestations of these phenomena in anthropoid apes, elephants, rodents and other mammals.

About the speaker:
Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal is a Dutch/American biologist and primatologist known for his work on the behavior and social cognition of primates. His scientific work has been published in journals such as Science, Nature, Scientific American, and outlets specialized in animal behavior. His latest book is Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Michael Hagearty
  • Created: 01/13/2017
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 04/13/2017


No keywords were submitted.