Survival Of The Friendliest Book Summary By Brian Hare and Vanessa Wood

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Survival of the Friendliest is a 2020 publication that dives right into the core of why we are such a friendly, community-oriented species.

Through this book, you'll be taken on a thought-provoking journey that unpacks evolutionary pressures that have shaped us and our sociability over the years.

It's an interesting dive into how our attitudes around being social developed and why we value friendships so much as humans.

If you're looking to learn more about human nature in a scientific manner, then this is the book for you!

Survival Of The Friendliest Book

Book Name: Survival of the Friendliest (Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity)

Author(s): Brian Hare and Vanessa Wood

Rating: 4.3/5

Reading Time: 27 Minutes

Categories: Psychology

Author Bio

Brian Hare is a renowned professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.

He has been published in multiple scientific journals and is the co-author of The Genius of Dogs, a New York Times best seller.

His most recent book, Survival of the Friendliest, explores how to use empathy and altruism as evolutionary tools in today's society.

Through cutting-edge research, real-life stories, and expert analysis, this book takes a deep dive into the benefits of living an altruistic lifestyle.

Survival Of The Friendliest: How Human Beings Have Thrived Through Friendship And Community


Friendship has played a pivotal part in the evolutionary history of species, including ours.

Survival of the Friendliest explores how this factor has emerged over time and how it has enabled humans to thrive.

This book looks into how Homo sapiens were able to collaborate, cooperate and forge relationships that helped to enhance our survival and allowed us to conquer the planet as we know it today.

From examining different creatures such as foxes, bonobos and chimps – you’ll gain an insight on why social skills were essential for human evolution.

You’ll also find out what makes friendship so powerful – from communication to empathy – and discover how leaning on one another was key in numerous eras throughout history.

This book aims not only to answer questions related to the development of friendship but also explore how having pets can make us better people by understanding companionship on a deeper level.

Humans Have Evolved Special Cognitive Skills To Understand The Minds Of Others

Humans have evolved special cognitive skills to help us cooperate.

As demonstrated by the two cup game, even as children, humans can recognize that other people can harbor knowledge and intentions different from our own.

This is known as theory of mind and is one of humanity’s greatest evolutionary achievements.

Interestingly, dogs fare better than chimpanzees when it comes to recognizing human pointing gestures in search for a treat or toy.

That’s because throughout history we’ve bred and fed domestic dogs that follow our commands, giving them an advantage over wild ones who haven’t had the same evolutionary pressure.

The ability to understand and leverage other minds coupled with communication is what has enabled us to cooperate more effectively than any other species on Earth.

We are truly unique in this capacity, having evolved these skills over thousands of years!

Can Animals Self-Domesticate Through Evolutionary Pressure?

The incredible results of Dmitry Belyaev’s experiment on foxes has been a major source of insight for scientists and researchers over the last fifty years.

Belyaev was attempting to domesticate the wild foxes and, in doing so, discovered that friendliness is a genetic trait that actually corresponds to greater communication abilities.

This discovery is significant because these same results were found in other domesticated animals, such as ferrets and Bengalese finches.

This suggests that if evolutionary pressure is selecting for friendliness, it might also be improving communication skills as well, most likely through the same genetic process.

The Foxes bred for friendliness have a significantly higher ability to communicate with humans than their wild counterparts.

In fact, not only did they pass the two cup test better than the control group, but they even retained this skill when raised by the control group foxes!

These observations are absolutely amazing in what they tell us about genetic wiring between friendliness and communication abilities.

It shows us just how powerful these traits can be when bred within nature or human intervention.

The Bonobo Is A Perfect Example Of What Happens When Species Self-Domesticate


The bonobo is a unique species of ape because it has adapted to live a more peaceful life in the wild than its close relatives, the chimpanzees.

Unlike chimps, bonobos exhibit much friendlier and cooperative behavior.

This is due to the fact that they have developed certain patterns of behavior and physical traits that strongly resemble those observed in domesticated animals.

For starters, bonobos show fewer signs of aggressive competitiveness over mates compared to chimps.

Rather than males vigorously battling for select females like their chimp counterparts, female bonobos are allowed to choose who they form relationships with – which often leads to greater interaction among all groups.

In addition, these apes also display a greater tendency for sharing food as well as displaying noticeably smaller faces and jaws with less pronounced teeth and paler facial fur even when fully mature.

Bonobos also demonstrate better communication skills and are better equipped for collaborative efforts like pulling ropes together to get a treat from a puzzle box – something chimps cannot readily do but most likely indicates an evolutionary benefit gained from developing these friendly traits over time.

In conclusion, the friendly behavior observed among bonobo populations is a strong sign that they have self-domesticated through natural selection – acquiring features specifically suited towards living peacefully within their environment without any intervention from humans or outside factors.

The Human Face Tells The Story Of How Our Species Rose To Dominance Through Friendship And Cooperation

The evidence is clear: Human evolution has favored friendliness.

It’s written all over our faces, both in the fossil record and in modern humans today.

In the earliest days of our species, evolutionary pressure was placed on individuals who were more sociable and showed signs of self-domestication.

We can see how this helped us outcompete our cousins by looking at the average brow ridge and jaw size, which became significantly diminished as Homo sapiens emerged victoriously.

Friendly traits have become woven into our DNA due to these evolutionary pressures, but what gave us an edge? Stable social structures come about through increased communication – something that comes easier when you can recognize someone’s emotions based on their facial features.

Scientists suggest that white sclerae, or eye whites on human faces, are derived from selecting for friendly traits; they help people identify where another person is looking with greater accuracy.

So although this phenomenon may seem mysterious at first glance, it’s really quite simple!

Human evolution has favored friendliness not just through physical adaptations but also behavioral ones – a necessary adaptation to ensure we could outlast some of our close cousins and survive as a species.

Humans Are Naturally Programmed To Form Positive Social Relationships, Even With Strangers

Our brains have evolved over time to form powerful social bonds, even with those whom we do not know.

This is largely due to the chemicals released in the brain when we interact with another person, such as oxytocin.

Not only does this neurohormone stop our brains from perceiving people as a threat, but studies also show that it elicits feelings of empathy and connection.

The effects can be seen amongst extended families, neighborhoods, and larger communities.

Our ability to build strong relationships with people beyond our immediate family has allowed us to create larger and more stable structures of social support.

In fact, the Hadza community in Tanzania provides a great example of how beneficial strong social ties can be.

By sharing resources and working together they have managed to sustain their small community for generations.

It’s interesting to note that even in situations when we meet someone for the first time, there are mechanisms in place that prompt us to form connections with them.

By simply looking into another’s eyes we trigger an increase of oxytocin production which encourages mutual trust and understanding – creating powerful social bonds between two strangers effortlessly!

How Our Social Bonds Can Mask Our Innate Tendency To Perceive Outsiders As Less Human

Social Bonds

We are likely naturally drawn to those most similar to us and may even bond with them strongly.

Yet, this strong connection can also make outsiders seem different and unfamiliar.

Rachel’s story from the Democratic Republic of Congo is an example of how our bonds between members of a group can have devastating effects on those who differ from us.

Our evolutionary biology contributes to this phenomenon, as our brains release oxytocin when we form connections with others in the group and this same hormone increases aggression toward outsiders.

We may perceive non-group members as less human and effectively not think twice about hurting or attacking them.

This is evidenced by instances of violence, conflict, and genocide throughout history – all linked to these strong social bonds with fellow group members that we’re wired for.

The good news is that while this natural inclination exists, violence isn’t inevitable; it only happens when empathy between groups breaks down.

Through understanding shared humanity between all of us, we might be able to foster a feeling of empathy which could encourage kindness rather than bigotry or hatred for our differences.

The Power Of Closeness: Using Positive Interaction To Foster Tolerance And Fight Hate

When it comes to fostering tolerance among different groups, the evidence shows that one of the best things we can do is to get people in close, casual contact with each other.

This was shown by the story of Andrzej Pitynski who rescued Jewish people despite being non-Jewish himself.

According to sociologists Pearl & Samuel Oliner, he and many other resistors like him had close friendships with their Jewish neighbors which made them more tolerant of Jews.

The same principle applies today to help combat hateful ideologies such as alt-right extremism.

Too often these sentiments stem from a feeling of vulnerability when interacting with outsiders so it’s important not to increase this sense of threat by violent repression.

Instead, creating spaces for positive interactions between people can lead them towards an understanding and appreciation of difference instead of hatred and contempt.

This is why it’s so important that towns in the United States become more diverse and inclusive – both spatially and economically.

We need to fund mixed-income housing developments, build more community spaces across all demographics, and tear down physical divides that keep us apart.

Only then can we foster true tolerance among all kinds of communities by encouraging everyone to know their neighbors!

Cultivating Kindness Toward Animals Can Improve How We Treat Each Other

Kindness Toward Animals

The idea that our treatment of animals mirrors our treatment of each other is an insight that Claudine André, a conservationist and a local of Kinshasa, has come to understand and appreciate.

As the city was under siege and bombs fell every day during the Second Congo War, she still managed to take care of her dozen bonobos in her own home with limited availability of clean water and reliable electricity.

To ensure they would have time to socialize, play and be content despite their conditions, she even drove them in secluded forests every single day.

After the war she set up Kindness Clubs where children could learn all about bonobos’ lives in local sanctuaries.

To her, this kindness extended towards animals can potentially prevent another conflict as those who learn to respect and love animals are more likely to do the same between one another.

Our relationship with animals has been a distant one since our species first appeared on Earth, often using them for necessary functions such as work or food.

But studies meant as proof for this statement were conducted by psychologist Gordon Hodson and Kristof Dhont, proving how those who attributed thoughts and feelings to animals also scored higher on measures of tolerance than those who didn’t think much about animal’s well-being.

Brian Hare investigated the matter closer accompanied by Wen Zhou’s graduate research which showed how people who agreed that some breeds of dog were inherently superior also had strong beliefs regarding Social Dominance Orientation amongst humans – suggesting how we view animals illuminates our view on ourselves too.

The connection between us exists through far more than just kind-heartedness – it is tangible evidence millions years old suggesting we rely constantly on one another in certain respects.

So when we extend kindness towards nature, there may be a greater chance of doing what comes naturally – being friendly towards one another too!

Wrap Up

Survival of the Friendliest: A Summary – The ultimate message in this book is that for our species to survive, we must rely on strong social skills and interpersonal communication.

We should cultivate friendships even with those we consider outsiders.

This will help us create a more harmonious world and ensure our survival.

In order to achieve this goal, we must set aside our fears, prejudices and biases towards different people, as these can all hold us back from getting the right level of human connection necessary for our own growth and development.

Furthermore, learning to work together with others can help us build more resilient communities.

By understanding one another better and forming meaningful relationships, we can develop the collective strength needed to combat any challenge that comes our way.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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