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Hum Nat. 2010 Jun;21(2):186-202. Epub 2010 Jun 10.

On the Perception of Newcomers: Toward an Evolved Psychology of Intergenerational Coalitions.


Human coalitions frequently persist through multiple, overlapping membership generations, requiring new members to cooperate and coordinate with veteran members. Does the mind contain psychological adaptations for interacting within these intergenerational coalitions? In this paper, we examine whether the mind spontaneously treats newcomers as a motivationally privileged category. Newcomers-though capable of benefiting coalitions-may also impose considerable costs (e.g., they may free ride on other members, they may be poor at completing group tasks). In three experiments we show (1) that the mind categorizes coalition members by tenure, including newcomers; (2) that tenure categorization persists in the presence of orthogonal and salient social dimensions; and (3) that newcomers elicit a pattern of impressions consistent with their probable ancestral costs. These results provide preliminary evidence for a specialized component of human coalitional psychology: an evolved concept of newcomer.

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