Morals - the unspoken rules which influence our decision-making and how we interact as humans - help guide our lives.
But, until recently, it was unclear whether society as a whole adheres to the same set of moral values - and why morality exists at all.
According to anthropologists from the University of Oxford, the answer is surprisingly simple, as they believe they have discovered the reason for morality - cooperation - and the seven rules that most people follow as a result.
The research, conducted by researchers at Oxford’s Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology and published in the journal Current Anthropology, found that “people everywhere face a similar set of social problems, and use a similar set of moral rules to solve them”.
The rules are: help your family, help your group, return favours, be brave, defer to superiors, divide resources fairly, and respect others’ privacy.
And they are followed, according to lead researcher Dr Oliver Scott Curry, because “all agree that cooperating, promoting the common good, is the right thing to do”.
To identify the universal rules of morality, researchers studied ethnographic accounts of established types of cooperation and ethics from 60 cultures involving 600 sources and found the same seven cooperative behaviours considered “morally good”.
According to the researchers, these types of cooperation, such as duty to family, group loyalty, conflict resolution, fairness, and social exchange, prove that morality evolved from a desire to cooperate and problem solve as a community.
And the adherence to these rules is “unsurprisingly” widespread, according to the study, which found that the seven cooperative behaviours were considered morally good in 99.9 per cent of the research analysed.
While cultures were found to place varying importance on each of the seven values, the study shows that cooperation is the ultimate goal.
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