Gender inequity and cooperative sustainability: an evolutionary, cross-cultural, and developmental perspective
TWCF Number
Project Duration
August 1 / 2023
- July 31 / 2026
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
Amount Awarded

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Rebecca Koomen
Institution University of Dundee

Led by Rebecca Koomen at the University of Dundee, this project is focused on cooperation, and aims to provide a first look at the social and biological roots of the interplay between gender inequity and environmental cooperation. The project seeks to answer questions about conditions most likely to foster our cooperative sustainability skills by exploring the diversity of social cognitive solutions for sustainability.

Specifically, it will explore the impact of gender inequity on our ability to collectively sustain shared environmental resources from three comparative perspectives: developmental, cross-cultural, and evolutionary. The results of these studies will break new theoretical ground in three novel ways. 

  1. The results will enhance our understanding of the diverse cooperative sustainability skills observed in various populations, including our closest living relatives — chimpanzees and bonobos; individuals of different ages; and people from diverse cultural backgrounds. 
  2. The project aims to develop a novel theoretical framework that integrates the effect of social inequity on cooperation across species in the human lineage. This framework will establish a theoretical connection between human social inequity and measures of social tolerance observed in great apes.
  3. The research will elevate our understanding of sustainability skills of these diverse populations from the level of individual interactions to broader group and even societal levels.

The project aims to:

  1.  Investigate whether groups of (patriarchal) chimpanzees and groups of (more matriarchal) bonobos can sustainably cooperate and, if so, how. Additionally, the researchers will look at whether natural variation in group-level sex-based inequality predicts cooperative sustainability.
  2. Investigate whether groups of children can sustainably cooperate, and if so how. It also aims to examine whether natural variation in group-specific sex-based inequality of resource access, both within and between cultures, predicts cooperative sustainability.
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