Prosocial: Using evolutionary science to build productive, equitable, and col-laborative groups

Paul W.B. Atkins, David Sloan Wilson, and Steven C. Hayes, Context Press, Oakland, CA, 2019, 248p.


  • Sinn und Werte
  • Haltung und Selbstorganisation
  • Innovation und Veränderung

In his blurb to the book by Atkins, Wilson, and Hayes, the US-American psychologist Tim Kasser pointedly writes: “What do you get when you combine contemporary evolutionary theory, insights from a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, and years of psychological research on behavior change? As it turns out, you get a practical and intuitively appealing set of steps for increasing care and cooperation amidst the twenty-first century's soul-sapping and ecologically damaging selfishness.”

The author trio, consisting of Paul Atkins (Australian organizational psychologist), David Sloan Wilson (US-American evolutionary biologist), and Steven C. Hayes (US-American clinical psychologist), provide the reader of “Prosocial” with a theoretically sound and practice-approved toolbox for instigating positive behavioral change and improving the efficacy of teams.

The authors have organized their book into fifteen easy-to-digest chapters. While the first four chapters provide the theoretical foundations and principles (1. multilevel selection, 2. Elinor Ostrom’s research on governing the commons, 3. an updated overview of the eight core design principles for the efficacy of groups, and 4. contextual behavioral science), the second part of the book (chapters 5 to 15) introduces the reader to the practical method of the so-called “Prosocial process”. The authors draw from a range of field-tested modules, which are also illustrated by case examples and helpful suggestions for implementation.

At its heart, the book tackles the area of tension between self-interest and the interest of others, which the authors systematize by means of multilevel selection theory (thereby also showing how vital cooperation is) and translate into practical approaches based on the eight core design principles for the efficacy of groups (developed by Elinor Ostrom) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

Generally, the book presents both important theoretical foundations and concrete, practice-approved impulses for leaders (and others) to contribute to positive changes in our complex world and to better navigate the tensions between cooperation and competition.

Book recommendation by Dr. Michael P. Schlaile

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