Interdisciplinary Workshop on Cooperation, Conflict and the Evolution of Sociality Grant uri icon


  • This project integrates the study of cooperation and conflict by bringing together research leaders in social science and animal behavior for an interdisciplinary workshop. The workshop is designed to foster exchange and integrate ideas and methods, to spur creative, new research projects, and to work towards creating a unified framework for thinking about cooperation and competition and their underlying mechanisms. One of the dominant themes of social science in the past several decades has been the remarkable capacity of humans for cooperation. A parallel theme has emerged in animal behavior research, where cooperation remains a major focus. In social science, the advent of game-theoretic models of behavior led to cooperation being viewed as an anomaly or mystery. Only recently, in the face of overwhelming laboratory and field evidence, were formal models expanded to reveal how such behaviors could be "rational." Similarly, in animal behavior research (including human animals), the pervasiveness of cooperative behaviors challenged theorists to explain how they increased fitness. Understanding the evolutionary origins of cooperation among individuals, and among groups and species, is one of the triumphs of 20th-century biology. At the same time, the study of conflict among individuals or groups also has led to important insights. The focus has been less on game-theoretic or evolutionary underpinnings, because the behavior is seen as a logical outgrowth of standard models of the drive to survive and reproduce. Conflict is seen as arising from resource competition, with the extra resources claimed by winners serving to enhance their utility (in social science) or survival and reproduction (in animal research). For the most part conflict has been studied separately from cooperation. They are,however, two sides of the same coin. Cooperation and conflict can be viewed as endpoints on a continuum of behavioral possibilities. But cooperation and conflict also are intertwined in a different way. Conflict, or the potential for conflict, may be necessary to support cooperation, and cooperation within a group may be necessary to mount successful conflict with another group. This workshop advances understanding of the fundamental social and biological forces that shape interactions involving cooperation and conflict. This approach stands to fundamentally transform our understanding of the interplay of cooperation and conflict. The workshop provides an important advance in the theoretical core of a wide range of disciplines. In addition, the project funds follow-on collaborative projects resulting from the workshop, thus leveraging the assembled expertise to produce new knowledge. In addition, the workshop explicitly includes the participation of PhD students and postdocs from a variety of disciplines, and it is expected that these younger scholars will participate in the funded projects, thus influencing the next generation of scholars.

date/time interval

  • 2013 - 2018