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Lecture 4: Robert Kurzban, University of Pennsylvania

Morality as a Dynamic Coordination Device

Info about event


Tuesday 23 April 2013,  at 14:00 - 16:00


Nobelparken, 1482-105

Current evolutionary theories of morality maintain that moral judgment and behavior function to deliver benefits (or prevent harm) to others. I’ll discuss an alternative view, that morality is, instead, best thought of as a system of coordinating group behavior when conflicts arise. That is, the proposal is that morality is, in essence, a dynamic coordination strategy in which bystanders coordinate side-taking based on a public signal derived from disputants’ actions rather than their identities. By focusing on disputants’ actions, bystanders can dynamically change which individuals they support across different disputes, simultaneously solving the problems of coordination and exploitation. In this talk, I apply these ideas to explain a variety of otherwise mysterious moral phenomena and present a series of new experimental findings consistent with the proposal. 

The talk is followed by commentaries from Hans Fink and Eve-Marie Becker.

Robert Kurzban is Associate Professor in Psychology at University of Pennsylvania and directs the Penn Laboratory for Experimental Evolutionary Psychology. Kurzban is a leading researcher in using principles from evolutionary biology to understand the structure of human psychology and has published extensively on the evolutionary underpinnings of morality, cooperation and social cognition. He is the author of the acclaimed book, Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite, and has published his research in PNAS, Proceedings of the Royal Society, Behavioral and Brain Sciences and all major psychology journals.

For more on Robert Kurzban and his research see: