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A Simple Model of Group Selection that cannot be analyzed with Inclusive Fitness


  • Matthijs van Veelen

    (University of Amsterdam)

  • Shishi Luo

    (Los Alamos National Laboratory, United States of America)

  • Burton Simon

    (University of Colorado Denver, United States of America)


This discussion paper led to a publication in the 'Journal of Theoretical Biology' , 2014, 360, 279-289. A widespread claim in evolutionary theory is that every group selection model can be recast in terms of inclusive fitness. Although there are interesting classes of group selection models for which this is possible, we show that it is not true in general. With a simple set of group selection models, we show two distinct limitations that prevent recasting in terms of inclusive fitness. The first is a limitation across models. We show that if inclusive fitness is to always give the correct prediction, the definition of relatedness needs to change, continuously, along with changes in the parameters of the model. This results in infinitely many different definitions of relatedness - one for every parameter value - which strips relatedness of its meaning. The second limitation is across time. We show that one can find the trajectory for the group selection model by solving a partial differential equation, and that it is mathematically impossible to do this using inclusive fitness.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthijs van Veelen & Shishi Luo & Burton Simon, 2014. "A Simple Model of Group Selection that cannot be analyzed with Inclusive Fitness," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 14-013/I, Tinbergen Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:tin:wpaper:20140013

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    Cited by:

    1. Matthijs van Veelen, 2020. "The evolution of morality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 20-063/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    2. Matthijs van Veelen & Benjamin Allen & Moshe Hoffman & Burton Simon & Carl Veller, 2016. "Inclusive Fitness," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-055/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    3. Aslihan Akdeniz & Matthijs van Veelen, 2019. "The cancellation effect at the group level," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 19-073/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    4. Tverskoi, Denis & Senthilnathan, Athmanathan & Gavrilets, Sergey, 2021. "The dynamics of cooperation, power, and inequality in a group-structured society," SocArXiv 24svr, Center for Open Science.

    More about this item


    Group selection; inclusive fitness; kin selection; equivalence; social evolution;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

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

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