The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism

Article (PDF Available)inThe Quarterly Review of Biology 46(1):35-57. · March 1971with 12,272 Reads
DOI: 10.1086/406755
Abstract
A model is presented to account for the natural selection of what is termed reciprocally altruistic behavior. The model shows how selection can operate against the cheater (non-reciprocator) in the system. Three instances of altruistic behavior are discussed, the evolution of which the model can explain: (1) behavior involved in cleaning symbioses; (2) warning cries in birds; and (3) human reciprocal altruism. Regarding human reciprocal altruism, it is shown that the details of the psychological system that regulates this altruism can be explained by the model. Specifically, friendship, dislike, moralistic aggression, gratitude, sympathy, trust, suspicion, trustworthiness, aspects of guilt, and some forms of dishonesty and hypocrisy can be explained as important adaptations to regulate the altruistic system. Each individual human is seen as possessing altruistic and cheating tendencies, the expression of which is sensitive to developmental variables that were selected to set the tendencies at a balance ap...
  • ... Resolving the moral conflict to help has been proposed to play an important function for the evo- lution of human prosocial behaviors (Buckholtz and Marois, 2012;Trivers, 1971). Functional cou- pling of mid-superior temporal sulcus and anterior cingulate gyrus increases with the size of social groups in monkeys (Sallet et al., 2011), perhaps paralleling the need for representation of one's role within a group and the adoption of the groups' moral values. ...
    ... Functional cou- pling of mid-superior temporal sulcus and anterior cingulate gyrus increases with the size of social groups in monkeys (Sallet et al., 2011), perhaps paralleling the need for representation of one's role within a group and the adoption of the groups' moral values. Since stable communities enhance each individual's survival probabilities (Trivers, 1971), the TPJ's function may have developed to facilitate behavior that allows individuals to evaluate their self-interest while still remaining within the moral boundaries set by the groups' aims. Successful regulation of moral conflict may be key for maintaining group integration and thus survival (Decety et al., 2004;Rilling et al., 2002). ...
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    The right temporo-parietal junction (rTPJ) has been proposed to play a key role in guiding human altruistic behavior, but its precise functional contribution to altruism remains unclear. We aimed to disentangle three possible functions of the rTPJ for human altruism, namely: implementing the motivation to help, signaling conflicts between moral and material values, or representing social reputation concerns. Our novel donation-decision task consisted of decisions requiring trade-offs of either positive moral values and monetary cost when donating to a good cause, or negative moral values and monetary benefits when sending money to a bad cause. Disrupting the rTPJ using transcranial magnetic stimulation did not change the general motivation to give or to react to social reputation cues, but specifically reduced the behavioral impact of moral-material conflicts. These findings reveal that signaling moral-material conflict is a core rTPJ mechanism that may contribute to a variety of human moral behaviors.
  • ... At first sight, Darwin's natural selection theory does not explain altruistic behav- ior. Theories have been proposed to account altruist behavior: kin selection [1], group selec- tion and reciprocal altruism [2] among others. In the reciprocal altruism theory, the loss experienced by an individual for being altruist returns later on behalf of the reciprocal partner. ...
  • ... Researchers have proposed various models accounting for the evo- lution of prosocial traits, which prompt individuals to help others at a cost to the self (e.g., Nesse, 2007;Nowak & Sigmund, 2005;Trivers, 1971). Importantly, none of the models support the viability of an unconditional "angel gene" that causes prosocial traits to manifest in all environmental conditions. ...
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