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The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism

Robert L. Trivers
The Quarterly Review of Biology
Vol. 46, No. 1 (Mar., 1971), pp. 35-57
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2822435
Page Count: 23
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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 appropriate to the local social and ecological environment.

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