Evolutionary anthropologists commonly describe humans as a highly cooperative species, based on our evolved socio-cognitive capacities. However, students and the general public may not necessarily share this view about our species. At the same time, fostering our ability to cooperate is considered a key foundation for achieving sustainable development, and students’ understanding of the conditions that enable or hinder cooperation is therefore an important learning goal in sustainability education. In this article, we describe a small classroom activity that explored students’ and preservice biology teachers’ preconceptions about the human capacity to cooperate around shared resources in comparison to the capacity of our closest relative, the chimpanzee. Results indicate that students and teachers had limited knowledge about the evolved human capacity for cooperation around shared resources in small groups, most often viewing chimpanzees as more capable of cooperation and sustainable resource use. Based on the results of this classroom intervention, we highlight important learning opportunities for educators in biology on teaching human evolution and human behavior, particularly as related to current challenges of sustainable development.
Are Humans a Cooperative Species? Challenges & Opportunities for Teaching the Evolution of Human Prosociality
SUSAN HANISCH (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an education researcher with a focus on human evolution, behavior, and sustainability at the University of Leipzig Faculty of Education, Department of Primary School Science Education, and a guest scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology in Leipzig, Germany.
DUSTIN EIRDOSH (email@example.com) is a doctoral student and education development coordinator at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology in Leipzig, Germany, focusing on the development of innovative teaching methods, content, and research approaches in interdisciplinary evolution and sustainability education.
- Views Icon Views
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Susan Hanisch, Dustin Eirdosh; Are Humans a Cooperative Species? Challenges & Opportunities for Teaching the Evolution of Human Prosociality. The American Biology Teacher 1 August 2021; 83 (6): 356–361. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/abt.2021.83.6.356
Download citation file: