Where Anthropology Meets Psychology

At mid-century, anthropology textbooks painted a simple picture of the plight of our ancestors on the African savanna: them against the world. Lions menaced and starvation loomed. This hostile environment was considered the driving force behind human evolution. It put a premium on inventing tools and tricks for finding food and not becoming food. So large brains evolved.

During the 1960s and early '70s, three biologists--William Hamilton, George Williams and Robert Trivers--ushered in a new view of evolution that would complicate this story line. Among its messages: for a highly social species, it isn't just a jungle out there; it's...

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