Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Appears in Collections:Psychology Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Why Care: Complex Evolutionary History of Human Healthcare Networks
Author(s): Kessler, Sharon E
Contact Email:
Keywords: care-giving
human evolution
niche construction
social cognition
Issue Date: Feb-2020
Citation: Kessler SE (2020) Why Care: Complex Evolutionary History of Human Healthcare Networks. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, Art. No.: 199.
Abstract: One of the striking features of human social complexity is that we provide care to sick and contagious individuals, rather than avoiding them. Care-giving is a powerful strategy of disease control in human populations today; however, we are not the only species which provides care for the sick. Widespread reports occurring in distantly related species like cetaceans and insects suggest that the building blocks of care for the sick are older than the human lineage itself. This raises the question of what evolutionary processes drive the evolution of such care in animals, including humans. I synthesize data from the literature to evaluate the diversity of care-giving behaviors and conclude that across the animal kingdom there appear to be two distinct types of care-behaviors, both with separate evolutionary histories: (1) social care behaviors benefitting a sick individual by promoting healing and recovery and (2) community health behaviors that control pathogens in the environment and reduce transmission within the population. By synthesizing literature from psychology, anthropology, and biology, I develop a novel hypothesis (Hominin Pathogen Control Hypothesis) to explain how these two distinct sets of behaviors evolved independently then merged in the human lineage. The hypothesis suggests that social care evolved in association with offspring care systems whereas community health behaviors evolved as a type of niche construction. These two types of behaviors merged in humans to produce complex, multi-level healthcare networks in humans. Moreover, each type of care increases selection for the other, generating feedback loops that selected for increasing healthcare behaviors over time. Interestingly, domestication processes may have contributed to both social care and community health aspects of this process.
DOI Link: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00199
Rights: © 2020 Kessler. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY - The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Licence URL(s):

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Kessler_FrontiersPsychology_Published_version.pdfFulltext - Published Version620.88 kBAdobe PDFView/Open

This item is protected by original copyright

A file in this item is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons

Items in the Repository are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.

If you believe that any material held in STORRE infringes copyright, please contact providing details and we will remove the Work from public display in STORRE and investigate your claim.