Civilisation: the oldest confidence trick in history?

Remains of the Roman Road at Egnazia by Steve JayResearchers at universities in Portugal and Belgium discovered earlier in the year that the way to less selfish societies is to give individuals the freedom to behave as they wish. Their research gives scientific weight to the idea that, left to their own devices, people tend naturally to cooperation.

Though perhaps not a huge surprise to most of us, it offers another important challenge to the traditional line that our default priority behaviour is to compete – a line that has determined the rules of our economic and social systems for centuries.