Evolution and Biological Mechanisms of Cooperation

Elisabeth Oberzaucher
Arts and Society, Cross-Disciplinary Strategies
2020W, scientific seminar (SEW), 2.0 ECTS, 1.0 semester hours, course number S03560


In this class we will discuss the theoretical concepts (i.e. The Sefish Gene, Biological Basics of Cooperation, Game Theory, Inclusive Fitness, Selfish Herd, ...) explaining cooperative behavior in human and nonhuman animals. We will critically examine the concepts in their historical and science-historical context and test their validity for explaining cooperative behavior. How egoistic are animals, or are we born cooperators? How does altruism/egoism depend on environmental factors? Can humans living in a globalised world depend on evolved mechanisms to ensure cooperation? Understanding the limitations of evolved mechanisms is needed to consciously address them with social and cultural rules. How can social and cultural rules succeed in bridging the gap between intuitive cooperative behavior and novel challenges? Is it necessary to override evolved mechanisms to achieve effective altruism? 


Examination Modalities

Presence is a requirement.

All students will submit a written report on a topic relating to the lecture. 

A final oral exam


Presence for all dates is required.

This class will be taught in a mix of online input and in-class discussion.

The first and the third unit (4 hours each) will be online and the second and fourth will be in the classroom.


Students from other faculties or universities will be given a place on the course subject to room capacities.


29 October 2020, 09:00–12:00 Zoom meeting online
25 November 2020, 09:00–13:00 Auditorium
11 December 2020, 13:30–17:00 Zoom meeting online
11 January 2021, 09:00–13:00

Course Enrolment

From 13 July 2020, 11:18
Via online registration

co-registration: possible

Individual courses: possible