Here we argue that social buffering of vulnerabilities through the emergence of collaborative morality will have opened new niches for adaptive cognitive strategies and widened personality variation. Such strategies include those that that do not depend on astute social perception or abilities to think recursively about others’ thoughts and feelings. We particularly consider how a perceptual style based on logic and detail, bringing certain enhanced technical and social abilities which compensate for deficits in complex social understanding could be advantageous at low levels in certain ecological and cultural contexts. ‘Traits of autism’ may have promoted innovation in archaeological material culture during the late Palaeolithic in the context of the mutual interdependence of different social strategies, which in turn contributed to the rise of innovation and large scale social networks.
Extensive evidence for support for individuals with disabilities in the distant archaeological record (Hublin 2009; Spikins, Rutherford, and Needham 2010; Spikins 2015a; Tilley 2015) argues that selection pressures within human societies were not simply orientated around immediate responses or short-term social value, and that social buffering of vulnerabilities was common.
Whilst we generalise evolutionary pressures as proceeding towards greater cogitation of other’s thoughts and feelings and increasingly complex intuitive models of other minds, the reality is likely to have been more complex. We argue that social buffering of vulnerabilities in increasingly complex human societies may have encouraged a range of different strategies to pro-sociality that go beyond increasingly recursive theory of mind, and lead to a wider range of pro-social human personalities.
Rather than social astuteness, signals of pro-social motivations and behaviours that positively affect the group thus become a major factor in reputation and selective success (Tomasello et al. 2012; Silk and House 2016). Third, the food sharing, collaborative parenting and maintenance of egalitarian dynamics which form the basis of human evolutionary success (Whiten and Erdal 2012) buffer individual shortfalls not only in resources (the basis for economic success) but also in abilities.
We argue that as a transition to collaborative morality (Tomasello and Vaish 2013b) occurred within human groups, new opportunities arose for alternative strategies to sociality, including those which do not depend on complex social understanding and theory of mind.Are there alternative adaptive strategies to human pro-sociality? The role of collaborative morality in the emergence of personality variation and autistic traits