Theories of Cooperation Among Humans

While walking down the street, we see a blind man trying to cross the road. While giving an exam, we see a classmate cheating, but we remain quiet. While trying to bring into effect a policy change, we join hands with people demanding the same thing. It becomes pertinent to understand the core principle guiding these numerous exchanges.

Theories of Cooperation among Humans

Cooperation involves the exchange of information, resources, or labor in the service of two or more people's commonalities. While cooperative behaviors are often crucial during antagonistic interactions, contemporary evolutionary techniques disagree with traditional notions that view cooperation as the antithesis of rivalry. This is especially true as the mass of warring factions grows. Multiple domains, from politics and economy to computational chemistry and evolutionary theory, highly value investigating collaboration in human society.

Expenses and Rewards of Friendship

In theory, friendships can offer a plethora of advantages related either or about reproduction. Regardless of the inherent benefits, our friends could also turn into our adversaries or competitors. They might impose costs on us by disclosing our confidential details to our adversaries, vying for the same essential resources, or even for the same partners. There are many different dimensions to friendships. Gender is one factor.

Friendships can be between individuals of the same gender or people of different sexes; the advantages and disadvantages of these two sorts of friendships could be very different. Intrasexual antagonism, for instance, could arise in a same-sex friendship. Normal opposite-sex friendships do not.

Nonetheless, an advantage of an opposite-sex connection over a same-sex friendship is the possibility of sexual chemistry. Bleske and Buss used the participants' preconceptions of the advantages (or disadvantages) of receiving numerous objects and their reports of how frequently they experienced these advantages from their friends to test many assumptions about the expenses and advantages of friendship.

The original theory postulated that one purpose of opposite-sex friendship, especially for males, is to facilitate transient sexual intimacy. Men, as expected, found the possibility of having sex with their opposite-sex acquaintances substantially more advantageous than women. Males were more likely than women to report experiencing an unrequited attraction to their opposite-sex friens.

Women were more likely than males to report feeling an opposite-sex relationship when their companion was drawn to them emotionally but not the other way around. In addition, men were more likely than women to be refused entry to their opposite-sex companions' bodies. Additional investigations supported the idea that sexual desire is a big issue in friendships between people of opposite sexes. In conclusion, the evidence is consistent with the claim.

The second idea was that an advantage of opposite-sex friendship for women over men is that it serves as protection. Throughout our evolutionary past, women capable of safeguarding themselves from men and obtaining resources had a higher rate of successful reproduction than women incapable of doing the same for themselves and any possible progeny. Women are thought to have developed preferences for men who can and will provide them with assets and safety. Women claimed that their acquaintances of the other sex provided them with protection, lending credence to this theory.

A third theory was that friends of the other sex serve as sources of knowledge about the other sex. Men and women must view such knowledge as an advantage of a contrary relationship over same-sex friendship since opposite-sex acquaintances may be more inclined to have details about their identity.

Men and women must view such data as extremely helpful if it has assisted them in solving the numerous adaptive difficulties associated with human mating, such as learning what the other sex desires in a short-term or long-term partner. Men and women reported getting information about the other sex from their opposite-sex acquaintances more frequently than from respective same-sex friends, lending credence to this theory.

The perception of intrasexual antagonism as a significant expense of same-sex relationships was the subject of a fourth theory. Compared to two same-sex people randomly selected, same-sex buddies are more likely to have comparable preferences, personalities, and degrees of desirability. As a result, same-sex friends could feel themselves competing with one another to find a committed relationship. As expected, men and women reported intrasexual competition over partners in same-sex relations. Although the stated competition rate was meager, it was noticeably more significant than the levels of sexual competitiveness in friendships between opposite-sex individuals.

Men and women also believed that the cost of sexual rivalry in a same-sex acquaintance was higher than in an opposite-sex connection. These findings imply that contact between opposite-sex outsiders and adversaries does not always result in sexual antagonism. In conclusion, the findings imply that sexual competition might occasionally arise in same-sex friendships, particularly for men, and is a drawback of these relationships.

Collective Agreements

Collaborative coalitions are groups that occasionally join to act as a unit to accomplish a specific goal. It is conceivable that humans have developed certain psychological mechanisms intended to foster coalitional cooperation. However, two significant issues that can hinder the establishment of coalitions are desertion and free-riding. One instance of defection is when Venezuela's Yanomamö people are subjected to military expeditions.

Several Yanomamö men occasionally allege a painful spike in their ankle or a stomach ache when they near a surrounding unit they want to raid. As a result, they must turn around and retreat to the central hub. Naturally, these defections jeopardize the coalition's prosperity, and those who use these justifications too frequently will be viewed as wimps.

Free-riders, or people who participate in the coalition's benefits but do not put in their due proportion of effort to ensure its success while having the opportunity to do so, are another critical issue. Those who consistently appear insufficiently funded when the bill arrives at the diner illustrate a free-rider because they take advantage of the group dinner without contributing somewhat to the expenses.

Collaborative alliances will break up because of the significant defection and freeriding issues, according to several chaos theory investigations in physiology and economics. A technique that, once it controls a community, cannot be conquered or replaced with a different approach is defection, which frequently ends up being the most evolutionary and stable approach. So, the issues of freeloaders and possible defection must be resolved for collaborative partnerships to develop.

Evolutionists have emphasized retribution's significance in addressing the issue of free riders. Studies have demonstrated that higher proportions of collaboration occur when a framework is in effect to penalize free riders—to impose costs on individuals who refuse to give their fair share. One theory is that "punishing sentiment"—a willingness to hurt "slackers" in the group—has arisen as a strategy. At least two possible outcomes from this punitive feeling include motivating the person to reprimand freeloaders and inspiring the rest of the group to do the same.

The punitive tone could theoretically serve two independent purposes −

  • To raise the likelihood that a hesitant group member would participate and

  • To diminish the free-fitness rider compared to those who give their full cooperation to the coalition.


In essence, friendship does not depend on meeting one tangible idea or another. It is a conglomerate of contributing ideas that align to aid in the justification of friendship formation. However, nothing comes without setbacks. While we may analyze the costs and benefits of a particular alliance, we will always miss out on one aspect or another. Even in coalitions, there are negative consequences for those not contributing equal efforts in the relationship.

Updated on: 12-Apr-2023


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