Among a different set of students, a stronger preference for sweet foods correlated positively with their willingness to volunteer their time, unpaid, for a separate unrelated study - considered by the researchers as a sign of prosocial behaviour."
Altruistic behaviour is common throughout the animal kingdom,particularly in species with complex social structures. For example,vampire bats regularly regurgitate blood and donate it to other membersof their group who have failed to feed that night, ensuring they do notstarve. In numerous bird species, a breeding pair receives help inraising its young from other ‘helper’ birds, who protectthe nest from predators and help to feed the fledglings. Vervet monkeysgive alarm calls to warn fellow monkeys of the presence of predators,even though in doing so they attract attention to themselves,increasing their personal chance of being attacked. In social insectcolonies (ants, wasps, bees and termites), sterile workers devote theirwhole lives to caring for the queen, constructing and protecting thenest, foraging for food, and tending the larvae. Such behaviour ismaximally altruistic: sterile workers obviously do not leave anyoffspring of their own—so have personal fitness of zero—but theiractions greatly assist the reproductive efforts of the queen.
Prosocial Behavior | Learning to Give
This simple model also highlights the point made previously, thatdonor-recipient correlation, rather than genetic relatedness, is thekey to the evolution of altruism. What is needed for altruism toevolve, in the model above, is for the probability of having a partnerof the same type as oneself to be sufficiently larger than theprobability of having a partner of opposite type; this ensures thatthe recipients of altruism have a greater than random chance of beingfellow altruists, i.e., donor-recipient correlation. Whether thiscorrelation arises because partners tend to be relatives, or becausealtruists are able to seek out other altruists and choose them aspartners, or for some other reason, makes no difference to theevolutionary dynamics, at least in this simple example.
(aka selfless) and selfish behaviour
Auden (1) Whether we are here to help others is a question I've often asked myself, and a question I will not be able to answer while I am still here on earth.
but also for an explanation of prosocial behaviour
The concept of group selection has a chequered and controversialhistory in evolutionary biology. The founders of modern neo-Darwinism—R.A. Fisher, J.B.S. Haldane and S. Wright—were all aware thatgroup selection could in principle permit altruistic behaviours toevolve, but they doubted the importance of this evolutionarymechanism. Nonetheless, many mid-twentieth century ecologists andsome ethologists, notably Konrad Lorenz, routinely assumed thatnatural selection would produce outcomes beneficial for the wholegroup or species, often without even realizing that individual-levelselection guarantees no such thing. This uncritical ‘good of thespecies’ tradition came to an abrupt halt in the 1960s, duelargely to the work of G.C. Williams (1966) and J. Maynard Smith(1964). These authors argued that group selection was an inherentlyweak evolutionary force, hence unlikely to promote interestingaltruistic behaviours. This conclusion was supported by a number ofmathematical models, which apparently showed that group selectionwould only have significant effects for a limited range of parametervalues. As a result, the notion of group selection fell intowidespread disrepute in orthodox evolutionary circles; see Sober andWilson 1998, Segestrale 2000, Okasha 2006, Leigh 2010 and Sober 2011 for details of thehistory of this debate.
Essay on Altruism: Selfless or Selfish?
The importance of kinship for the evolution of altruism is very widelyaccepted today, on both theoretical and empirical grounds. However,kinship is really only a way of ensuring that altruists and recipientsboth carry copies of the altruistic gene, which is the fundamentalrequirement. If altruism is to evolve, it must be the case that therecipients of altruistic actions have a greater than averageprobability of being altruists themselves. Kin-directed altruism isthe most obvious way of satisfying this condition, but there are otherpossibilities too (Hamilton 1975, Sober and Wilson 1998, Bowles andGintis 2011, Gardner and West 2011). For example, if the gene thatcauses altruism also causes animals to favour a particular feedingground (for whatever reason), then the required correlation betweendonor and recipient may be generated. It is this correlation, howeverbrought about, that is necessary for altruism to evolve. This pointwas noted by Hamilton himself in the 1970s: he stressed that thecoefficient of relationship of his 1964 papers should really bereplaced with a more general correlation coefficient, which reflectsthe probability that altruist and recipient share genes, whetherbecause of kinship or not (Hamilton 1970, 1972, 1975). This point istheoretically important, and has not always been recognized; but inpractice, kinship remains the most important source of statisticalassociations between altruists and recipients (Maynard Smith 1998,Okasha 2002, Westet al. 2007).