Returning to one of my favorite topics, here’s another example of how evolution is not simply driven by nature red in tooth and claw. Cooperation also has a big part to play.
The thesis of this article is that the friendliest wolves were the ones that forged a bond with humans, leading to a mutually beneficial relationship. Over the ages, these wolves evolved into dogs.
The protodogs came to be able to decipher human gestures. This helped the two species hunt more successfully together. Dogs could also sound a warning of danger and help in defense.
Dogs are very tuned in to their humans, much as babies are to their parents. As a matter of fact, dogs are able to read us better than any other animal, including apes and wolves.
Anyway, this idea just made me feel happy about nature for a few minutes.
It made me feel happy too. Yes, cooperation plays a big part.
It probably also helped form the relationship that puppies (and kittens) are the cutest things on the planet.
Yes, friendliness and cooperation are possible survival strategies. We typically use whatever tool works best for the situation: sometimes a two-man saw, sometimes a jackhammer. Wolves went the friendliness route, and that changed them forever.
The science of motivation is surprisingly tricky, but it’s fair to generalize and say that extrinsic motivation is of dubious quality and intrinsic motivation is the kind that produces good, sustainable results. That said, all mammals and some birds (at least), have very strong play drives, and play is intrinsically motivating. One interesting finding is that among animal playmates, the stronger playmates will intentionally “throw” a certain percentage of the games in order to keep the play going. (And yes, the dreaded Jordan Peterson has described this “throwing the game” behavior, but I knew of it long before he said it.)