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Evol Hum Behav. 2012 Nov 1;33(6):715-725. Epub 2012 Sep 3.

The Social Cognition of Social Foraging: Partner Selection by Underlying Valuation.

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Center for Evolutionary Psychology and Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara.


Humans and other animals have a variety of psychological abilities tailored to the demands of asocial foraging, that is, foraging without coordination or competition with other conspecifics. Human foraging, however, also includes a unique element, the creation of resource pooling systems. In this type of social foraging, individuals contribute when they have excess resources and receive provisioning when in need. Is this behavior produced by the same psychology as asocial foraging? If so, foraging partners should be judged by the same criteria used to judge asocial patches of resources: the net energetic benefits they provide. The logic of resource pooling speaks against this. Maintaining such a system requires the ability to judge others not on their short-term returns, but on the psychological variables that guide their behavior over the long-term. We test this idea in a series of five studies using an implicit measure of categorization. Results showed that (1) others are judged by the costs they incur (a variable not relevant to asocial foraging) whereas (2) others are not judged by the benefits they provide when benefits provided are unrevealing of underlying psychological variables (despite this variable being relevant to asocial foraging). These results are suggestive of a complex psychology designed for both social and asocial foraging.

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