You may have noticed that sharing and kindness is a traditional value that’s present in virtually all cultures around the world. It may not be a coincidence, though; it’s actually hardwired into our brains!
Anthropologists know that humans have been sharing resources for hundreds of thousands of years – in fact, it’s what led to the incredible population growth that made humans an endemic species! We increasingly realized that dividing resources such as food and mating opportunities helped the largest number individuals and their offspring thrive, and those that carried the tendency to cooperate thrived and grew. Over the millennia, our brains naturally developed to instinctively recognize the benefits of sharing, which helped us evolve into the social creatures we are today.
This tactical advantage wasn’t solely for basic survival – sharing with others has also been crucial for building strong social bonds within a group. When we share with others, we create a sense of trust and belonging that leads to greater cooperation and a stronger sense of community. Getting along and working together was crucial for the survival of early societies, which led to cooperative initiatives like agriculture and construction of cities.
While we traveled down this evolutionary path, we unintentionally developed something curious; empathy. Our ability to experience empathy and choose to be kind or generous is universal, which leads most anthropologists to believe that it develops independently of culture – it’s innate.
While evolutionary principles generally focus on survival of the self, being nudged to actively value the lives of others seems to be in our best interests as well – the brain even releases ‘happy’ hormones such as serotonin when we engage with people we empathize with and care about to encourage sharing behavior!