understanding happiness from an evolutionary perspective

understanding happiness from an evolutionary perspective

via Greater Good by Jill Suttie

We humans evolved to be social creatures. By gaining the skills to cooperate with others, we were able to stave off predators, eat more consistently, and care for each other’s young, allowing our genes to carry forward.

Rock art in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, depicts a collaborative hunting scene.

So, why do we still struggle at times to get along—even to the extent that we war on one another? And how can understanding our evolutionary heritage help us have better relationships and more happiness today?

There are the kinds of questions pondered in psychologist William Von Hippel’s book The Social Leap. Von Hippel explains that while evolution has shaped us to work together cooperatively to survive, it has also made us susceptible to the lure of competition and status in a way that can endanger our relationships and well-being.

The book is partly a history of how we came to be the complex social creatures we are today, starting all the way back in early human development. Researchers are able to find clues about early hominid social behavior in fossil records and DNA or other markers—for example, examining fossil teeth of human ancestors in a particular region to conclude who migrated there and who were locals.

Von Hippel draws on research from anthropology, paleontology, evolutionary biology, and more to explain how different developments drove the human race forward. Walking on two legs instead of four allowed early humans to protect themselves by throwing stones; storytelling propelled shared learning and an accumulation of knowledge; agriculture bred inequality and fierce protection of resources; and cities propelled people to develop specialized skills and become better at reading others’ intentions. Our whole social order, including when we cooperate, show concern, and choose mates, he writes, can be explained by evolutionary driving forces—the need to survive and reproduce, so that our genes will be passed along.

How does evolution explain our behavior today?

“Nothing is more important to us than our social connections because nothing was more critical for our ancestors’ survival and reproduction,” writes Von Hippel. That’s why we evolved to intuit what others are thinking, to be able to read social cues, and to affiliate with groups of people who seem to accept and validate our thoughts and feelings. It makes us feel safe and secure…

…keep reading the full & original article HERE