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Group selection and the evolution of altruism

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  • Ben Cooper
  • Chris Wallace

Abstract

'Group selection' is an oft-cited but controversial explanation for the survival of altruism. Rather than enter this debate, this paper asks whether a group structure alone can provide a reasonable explanation for the survival of altruistic behaviour in an evolving population. If altruism (defined as taking a cooperative action in a standard Prisoners' Dilemma) is to flourish, either groups need to be isolated from one another for multiple generations, or groups need to be constructed in a positively-assortative manner. Concentrating on the former case the paper shows that the size of the group, the relative benefit to cost of altruism and the number of generations in isolation all play a critical role. The smaller the group size, or the larger the benefit-to-cost ratio, the higher the survival chances of altruism. Additionally, for altruism to survive, the number of generations spent in isolated groups must be neither too big nor too small. Copyright 2004, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Cooper & Chris Wallace, 2004. "Group selection and the evolution of altruism," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(2), pages 307-330, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:oxecpp:v:56:y:2004:i:2:p:307-330
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/oep/gpf043
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jacob Weisdorf & Paul Sharp, 2009. "From preventive to permissive checks: the changing nature of the Malthusian relationship between nuptiality and the price of provisions in the nineteenth century," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 3(1), pages 55-70, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Herold, Florian, 2003. "Carrot or Stick? Group Selection and the Evolution of Reciprocal Preferences," Discussion Papers in Economics 40, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    2. repec:spr:jogath:v:47:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s00182-018-0630-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Oded Stark & Doris Behrens & Yong Wang, 2009. "On the evolutionary edge of migration as an assortative mating device," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 95-109, February.
    4. Martin Kaae Jensen & Alexandros Rigos, 2012. "Evolutionary Games with Group Selection," Discussion Papers 13-05, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    5. Richard Povey, 2014. "Punishment and the potency of group selection," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 799-816, September.
    6. Pfeuffer, Wolfgang, 2006. "Religion as a Seed Crystal for Altruistic Cooperation," Munich Dissertations in Economics 5788, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    7. Florian Herold, 2012. "Carrot or Stick? The Evolution of Reciprocal Preferences in a Haystack Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 914-940, April.
    8. Martin Kaae Jensen & Alexandros Rigos, 2018. "Evolutionary games and matching rules," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 47(3), pages 707-735, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games

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