An anthropologist from Duke named Brian Hare says that humans unintentionally experienced a process whereby they became less fearful and aggressive towards other people. That process left our distant human relatives more cooperative than the now-extinct Neanderthals and Denisovans. He believes that natural selection favored friendliness in Homo sapiens, and the early Homo sapiens didn’t realize they were self-domesticated by evolution.
He also believes that the more agreeable demeanor is ultimately responsible for the success and propagation of Homo sapiens across the planet. Recently Hare published a book that presents a thesis on why he believes being more cooperative with those around us and were willing to compromise was a survival advantage. He outlines how he believes violence and aggression wasn’t always a sound evolutionary stage in the book.
He believes that being the aggressive alpha meant they were more often enraged during dangerous encounters and became a target of the larger group when the best interest was to weed out threatening and destabilizing males. Homo sapiens are the only creatures to have undergone the sort of domestication. Hare says that it happened in Fox’s, wolves, and even plant pollinators.
There were clear benefits for each of these groups, with wolves becoming friendlier towards humans leading to the dogs we know and love today; they had more reliable food source and a better chance of living. The researcher notes that a major social milestone for humans happened between 40,000 and 90,000 years ago, along with our cognitive revolution. During that time, early humans created tools, weapons, carvings, and cave drawings.
Improved cooperation meant those skills could be spread within and between groups of hunter-gatherer ancestors. Researchers believe that when a new or abundant resource is available, the benefits of aggression no longer pay off.