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The Puzzle of Altruism Reconsidered: Biological Theories of Altruism and One-Shot Altruism

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  • Shultziner, Doron

    ()
    (Politics & International Relations Department, Oxford University)

  • Dattner, Arnon

    ()
    (Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University)

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    Abstract

    This paper critically examines the state of the literature in evolutionary biology regarding theories of altruistic behavior. The shared theoretical problems of Kin-selection and Group-selection are examined. Theoretical and severe methodological problems of Reciprocal Altruism theory are also discussed. We offer new conceptual clarifications of the Handicap Principle theory regarding costs and benefits to both the donor and the recipient of an altruistic act. We also summarize supportive empirical studies which demonstrate how Handicap Principle theory easily explains altruistic behavior on a different logic than the one employed by other theories of altruistic behavior. Finally, we discuss the phenomenon of one-shot altruism in order to evaluate, and distinguish between, the predictive and explanatory power of different theories of altruistic behavior.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by The Ratio Institute in its series Ratio Working Papers with number 103.

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    Length: 27 pages
    Date of creation: 06 Sep 2006
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:hhs:ratioi:0103

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    Related research

    Keywords: altruism; altruistic behavior; theories of altruism; handicap principle; reciprocity; reciprocal altruism; group selection; kin selection; one-shot altruism;

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    1. Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Strong Reciprocity and Human Sociality," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2000-02, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
    2. Eric Alden Smith & Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Costly Signaling and Cooperation," Working Papers 00-12-071, Santa Fe Institute.
    3. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 2003. "Altruistic Punishment in Humans," Microeconomics 0305006, EconWPA.
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