Supernatural and secular monitors promote human cooperation only if they remind of punishment
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KünyeYılmaz, O., & Bahçekapılı, H. G. (2016). Supernatural and secular monitors promote human cooperation only if they remind of punishment. Evolution and Human Behavior, 37(1), 79-84. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2015.09.005
People’s large-scale cooperation with genetically unrelated people is widely assumed to lie beyond the scope of standard evolutionary mechanisms like kin selection and reciprocal altruismand to require mechanisms specific to human sociality. The emergence of the idea of being monitored by supernatural agents who can punish social norm violations has been proposed as one solution to this problem. In parallel, secular authorities can have similar functions with those of religious authority based on supernatural agents in today’s secularized world. However, it is not clear whether it is the idea of religious or secular authority in general or the punishing aspects of both institutions in particular that leads to increased cooperation and prosociality. Study 1 showed that people reported more prosocial intentions after being implicitly primed with punishing religious and secular authorities (versus non-punishing ones or a neutral one) in a scrambled sentence task. Study 2 showed that explicitly priming the punishing aspects of God (versus the non-punishing aspects or a neutral prime) led to an increase in the level of prosocial intentions. The findings support the supernatural punishment hypothesis and suggest a similar mechanismfor the influence of secular authority on prosociality.More generally, the findings are consistentwith views that punishment,whether real or imagined, played an important role in the evolution of large-scale cooperation in the human species.