Altruism, chimpanzees and collaboration
Scientists have been studying various animal species to see if altruism (helping someone else without specific benefit to oneself) is something uniquely human – as has been thought for decades. The theory goes that we are born selfish and our parental, religious and social training makes us less so – a handy excuse for colonial master subjugating the backward savages with altruistic Christianity.
Recent research blast this myth out of the water proving that both chimpanzees and human babies as young as 18 months old both spontaneously help others without reward, indicating that we (chimps and humans) are in some way hard-wired to care. In fact, other research with volunteers and charitable donors in fMRI machines shows that our brain is designed to make us feel good when we give to others – the same reward centred light up as when we eat or drink good things. The selfish gene is not necessarily the only thing guiding our innate behaviour – perhaps we are inherently designed to collaborate, and it is not just our parents, teachers or ‘betters’ that make it so.