A powerful, counterintuitive theory of human nature arguing that our evolutionary success depends on our ability to be friendly—from a pair of trailblazing scientists and New York Times bestselling authors.
For most of the approximately 200,000 years that our species has existed, we shared the planet with at least four other types of humans. They were smart, they were strong, and they were inventive. But, one by one, our hominin relatives went extinct. How did we last?
In delightfully conversational prose and based on years of his own original research, Brian Hare, professor in the department of evolutionary anthropology and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University, and his wife Vanessa Woods, a research scientist and award-winning journalist, offer a powerful, elegant new theory called "self-domestication" which suggests that we have succeeded not because we were the smartest or strongest but because we are the friendliest.
This explanation defies the conventional wisdom. Since Charles Darwin wrote about "evolutionary fitness," fitness has been confused with strength, tactical brilliance, and aggression. But what helped us innovate where other primates did not is our ability to coordinate and communicate with others. We can find common cause and identity with both neighbors and strangers if we see them as "one of us." This ability makes us geniuses at cooperation and innovation and is responsible for all the advances in culture and technology in human history. But this gift for friendliness comes at cost. If we perceive that someone is not "one of us," we are capable of unplugging them from our mental network. Where there would have been empathy and compassion, there is nothing, making us both the most tolerant and the most merciless species on the planet. Addressing the rise of tribalism in all aspects of modern life, Hare and Woods use their theory of human self-domestication to show how we can expand our empathy and friendliness to include people who aren't obviously like ourselves.
Brian Hare's groundbreaking research was developed in close collaboration with Richard Wrangham and Michael Tomasello, giants in the field of cognitive evolution. Survival of the Friendliest offers a new understanding of genocide, structural inequality, and innovation and also provides us with a roadmap to a friendlier future.