“Thanks to Darwin”: Gratitude and the Evolution of Friendship in Biological Markets

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Venue:CBC 240

“Thanks to Darwin”: Gratitude and the Evolution of Friendship in Biological Markets

Michael McCullough
Professor, Department of Psychology University of Miami

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 – 11:00 a.m.
CBC 240
Florida International University, MMC Campus

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About the Lecture

Emotion theorists have speculated about the functions of gratitude for two millennia, but little scientific progress could be made before the advent of two powerful tools for thinking: Darwin’s theory of natural selection and the computational theory of mind. In this talk, I review over a dozen empirical facts for which a tenable theory of gratitude must account, and then offer a new explanation that meets this challenge. Our explanation for gratitude commits to a function: Gratitude’s function is to motivate behaviors that induce seemingly profitable relationship partners to make time for the grateful individual within their circles of most favored cooperation partners. In plain English, gratitude motivates humans to “be a friend” in order to “make a friend.” In this talk I will present results of a new experiment in which novel predictions based on this hypothesis are tested.

Michael McCullough is a professor of psychology at the University of Miami, where he directs the Evolution and Human Behavior Laboratory and coordinates the Evolution and Behavior emphasis within the Psychology Department’s PhD Program. Professor McCullough’s research—which is heavily influenced by evolutionary approaches to understanding human cognition and behavior—focuses on (a) psychological mechanisms related to social exchanges of costs and benefits (for example, forgiveness, revenge, and gratitude); (b) religion; and (c) self-control. He has written more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. In addition, Professor McCullough has authored and edited several books, the most recent of which is Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct. Professor McCullough’s research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the John Templeton Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Fetzer Institute.