The Social Instinct: How Cooperation Shaped the World

Nichola Raihani. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-26282-0
Raihani, a professor of evolution and behavior at University College London, debuts with an upbeat take on why humans help each other. To prove cooperation is “the reason we exist in the first place,” Raihani explores such matters as why women tend to invest more time in parenting (“it is often easier for the female to be sure she is the mother”), how mothers-in-law earned a bad reputation (in pre-industrial homes, they often regarded new members as competition for “limited resources”), and whether money really can buy happiness or whether happiness comes from “knowing we have more than people like us.” She employs social, economic, and biological theories to argue that living organisms have evolved through teamwork, and she discusses downsides of humans’ social instinct—it can lead to conspiracy theories and confirmation bias. Colorful examples—such as how honeybees work to cool hives during the summer and how male burying beetles take on more parental responsibilities because of an “anti-aphrodisiac” secreted by the female—bring things to life. This enriching survey should have broad appeal. Agent: Will Francis, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 05/26/2021
Release date: 08/31/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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