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  • Trust, Emotional Commitments and Reputation

    Penny Spikins

    Chapter from the book: Spikins, P. 2022. Hidden Depths: The Origins of Human Connection.

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    How did our uniquely human commitments to our loved ones develop, and why are we so concerned about what feelings lie underneath what other people do? In this chapter, we consider the origins of our long-term emotional connections based on trust, and how they lead to uniquely human sensitivities to what motivates other people and how they feel about us.

    As we have seen in Chapters 1 and 2, new types of emotional connections, and new ways of collaborating to survive, emerged in early humans after 2 million years ago. This was a time when changes in emotional dispositions led to a greater willingness to share with, and care for, a wider set of individuals. Archaeological evidence demonstrates care for vulnerable adults, within the contexts of both food sharing and of collaborative care for increasingly dependent offspring.

    The emergence of strong emotional bonds based on high levels of give and take at this time laid the basis for human trust, emotional commitments and love. Yet these long-term emotional connections also seem to have come at a price. The importance of knowing who to trust brought with it pressures to be acutely focused on displaying our genuine intentions (or hiding our less genuine ones), and on identifying the genuine emotional motivations of others. Considering the importance of relationships based on trust, and with this emotional astuteness about who could be trusted, may yield important insights into many debates about our origins. These include the cultural transmission of ideas, the explanations for an increasing concern with symmetry and the aesthetics of form in stone tools after 2 million years ago, and the mechanisms behind how people who thought differently may have been integrated into human populations.

    Long-term relationships based on trust and a sensitivity to the emotional connections underlying people’s words or actions may have been much more important in our distant past than we have previously recognised.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Spikins, P. 2022. Trust, Emotional Commitments and Reputation. In: Spikins, P, Hidden Depths. York: White Rose University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.22599/HiddenDepths.d

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Published on Aug. 23, 2022