On November 27 and 28, the 3rd annual CBEN conference with the theme evolution and cooperation took place at Leiden University, featuring keynotes by Charlotte Hemelrijk (complexity science, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen), Carsten de Dreu (social and organisational psychology, Leiden University), Redouan Bshary (behavioural ecology, Université de Neuchâtel), Matthijs van Veelen (economics, University of Amsterdam), and Andy Radford (behavioural ecology, Bristol University) as well as submitted talks from a wide variety of disciplines, including social psychology, primatology, behavioural ecology, theoretical biology, and archaeology.
Early Career Award
For the first time, CBEN awarded a prize to an outstanding early career researcher. The laureate is Jorg Massen of the University of Vienna, who spoke on the evolution of prosociality. See the abstract of his talk below.
By cooperating one can reach goals that could not be reached alone, yet it also involves an initial investment. Participants of a cooperative effort may try to maximize their net gain by minimizing their investment, while nonetheless reaping the benefits. Cooperation is thus prone to free-riders and will break down easily. Nevertheless, humans cooperate much and on enormous scales, partly due to their strong prosocial tendency. Such prosociality was long thought to be uniquely human, yet recent studies have also reported prosociality in, at least some, other animals. Currently, two of the major hypotheses stress the importance of a cooperative breeding lifestyle and strong social bonds in the evolution of prosociality. Yet, these hypotheses are so far mainly tested in a limited number of primates, make strong general claims very difficult. In my talk, I will first explore how prosocial humans actually are in comparison to other animals, by reporting on several studies that test prosociality in humans in comparable contexts and set-ups as those used to test animals. Second, I will explore the current evolutionary hypotheses by presenting experimental studies on prosociality in a range of corvid species with different socio-ecological backgrounds. Finally, I will compare these corvid studies with studies on primates, and by transcending phylogenetic borders I aim to elucidate some of the socio-ecological selection pressure that may have led to the evolution of prosociality.
The conference also featured a poster session with a diverse set of excellent contributions. Three posters gained an equal number of votes for the poster award, and so shared the first and second prize. The winners are Mélisande Aellen (Université de Neuchâtel) with “‘Proper’ third-party punishment in fish”, Friederike Behrens (Leiden University) with “How nonverbal expressions and reputation drive cooperative decisions: A real-life interaction study”, and Ilaria Torre (Trinity College Dublin) with “Dynamics of cooperation in an iterated trust game: people just don’t give up on untrustworthy game partners”. They each receive an annual subscription of one of the journals Behaviour or Animal Biology, published by Brill, as well as 150€ worth in Brill books.