Social norms can promote cooperation by assigning reputations to individuals based on their past actions. A good reputation indicates that an individual is likely to reciprocate. A large body of research has established norms of moral assessment that promote cooperation, assuming reputations are objective. But without a centralized institution to provide objective evaluation, opinions about an individual's reputation may differ across a population. In this setting we study the role of empathy-the capacity to form moral evaluations from another person's perspective. We show that empathy tends to foster cooperation by reducing the rate of unjustified defection. The norms of moral evaluation previously considered most socially beneficial depend on high levels of empathy, whereas different norms maximize social welfare in populations incapable of empathy. Finally, we show that empathy itself can evolve through social contagion. We conclude that a capacity for empathy is a key component for sustaining cooperation in societies.
- Joshua B Plotkin
- Joshua B Plotkin
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Michael Doebeli, University of British Columbia, Canada
© 2019, Radzvilavicius et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
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Ascidians with very similar embryos but highly divergent genomes are thought to have undergone extensive developmental system drift. We compared, in four species (Ciona and Phallusia for Phlebobranchia, Molgula and Halocynthia for Stolidobranchia), gene expression and gene regulation for a network of six transcription factors regulating peripheral nervous system (PNS) formation in Ciona. All genes, but one in Molgula, were expressed in the PNS with some differences correlating with phylogenetic distance. Cross-species transgenesis indicated strong levels of conservation, except in Molgula, in gene regulation despite lack of sequence conservation of the enhancers. Developmental system drift in ascidians is thus higher for gene regulation than for gene expression and is impacted not only by phylogenetic distance, but also in a clade-specific manner and unevenly within a network. Finally, considering that Molgula is divergent in our analyses, this suggests deep conservation of developmental mechanisms in ascidians after 390 My of separate evolution.
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