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Fairness is socially-learned, research suggests

By Carolyn Lesorogol

A group of researchers working in 15 different areas across the globe may have answered one of the deeper questions of the human condition -- why are we fair to strangers we'll never see again?

That fairness makes possible the large, interconnected, market-based societies that have grown up mostly in the last 10,000 years.

Two rival theories have been put forward as to why. One suggests that we're fair to strangers because we mistakenly treat them like kin, the other that social conditioning makes us this way.

Writing in today's edition of the journal Science, the researchers present evidence that comes down solidly on the side of social conditioning. They found that people who live in small groups and who grow or catch most of their own food don't really care that much whether they're fair or unfair to strangers, or whether a stranger is punished for being unfair.

People who trade for a larger percentage of their daily food and therefore live in more integrated, larger social groups, are much more likely to be fair to strangers.

"We think its was really a lot of cultural learning, and it took 10,000 years of cultural evolution to get to the point where you have a well-run society with billions of people," says Joe Henrich, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, the paper's lead author.

Religion appears to play a part as well. People who follow tribal religions are also more focused on their kin and friends and don't care too much about fairness with strangers. People who followed the two world religions in the areas studied, Christianity or Islam, were more likely to be fair to strangers and to want to punish unfairness.

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See "Link to External Source Article" below to read further.

Is fairness learned? The Urantia Book has quite a lot to say regarding this desirable (and Godly) attribute. Please see our study on fairness HERE

Link to External Source Article

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