Evolutionary Biology
Political Conflict

How to distinguish altruism from spite (and why we should bother)

Author(s): Daniel Brian Krupp
Date: October 8, 2013
Publication Type: Journal Article
Research Topics: Political Conflict

Overview:

Social behavior is often described as altruistic, spiteful, selfish, or mutually beneficial. These terms are appealing, but it has not always been clear how they are defined and what purpose they serve. Here, I show that the distinctions among them arise from the ways in which fitness is partitioned: none can be drawn when the fitness consequences of an action are wholly aggregated, but they manifest clearly when the consequences are partitioned into primary and secondary (neighbourhood) effects. I argue that the primary interaction is the principal source of adaptive design, because (i) it is this interaction that determines the fit of an adaptive and (ii) it is the actor and primary recipients whom an adaptation foremost affects. The categories of social action are thus instrumental to any account of evolved function.

Key Findings:

  • Altruism and spite are pervasive, but widely misconstrued, phenomena.
  • Altruism has positive effects on recipients of the primary interaction and negative effects on the "neighborhood", whereas spite has the opposite effects.
  • Only the primary interaction determines the fit of an adaptation.
  • Thus, altruism and spite are best understood as pertaining to the consequences of actions on those primarily, rather than secondarily, involved.
  • When appreciated properly, these phenomena help us to recognize adaptive design.

Related Publications

Research Duetting as a Collective Behavior

Duetting as a Collective Behavior

Written by Daniel Brian Krupp on February 5, 2016

Mated birds of many species vocalize together, producing duets. Duetting behavior occurs at two levels of organization: the individual level and the pair level.

Read more
Coups d'Etat and Civil War

When and Why Coups Occur During Civil War

Written by , on January 15, 2016

Coups d’état are frequently both causes and consequences of larger-scale civil wars and rebellions.

Read more
Empirical Trends in Peace

The Century of Peace? Empirical Trends in Peace and Conflict

Written by One Earth Future on November 2, 2015

Is a world without war possible in the 21st century?Trends in armed conflict and a developing body of social scientific research suggest that this idea is plausible.Based on a discussion of high-level experts held in 2014, this report reviews the

Read more
Causes and Outcomes of Coup during Civil War

The Causes and Outcomes of Coup during Civil War

Written by Jun Koga Sudduth on October 1, 2015

Though approximately one in four coup attempts takes place during an ongoing civil war, scholars have not yet analyzed how the incidence of civil war affects coup attempts and outcomes.

Read more
Rebels and Service Provision

Negotiating With Rebels: The Effect of Rebel Service Provision on Conflict Negotiations

Written by Danielle F. Jung, Lindsay Heger on September 29, 2015

When rebels provide social services, do they have more leverage negotiating the terms of a peace deal? The literature suggests service-providing groups may, on average, have a wider base of support and a more centralized organizational structure.

Read more
Strengthening Maritime Security

Non-State Actors in Maritime Security

Written by Conor Seyle, Jens Vestergaard Madsen on July 20, 2015

Non-state actors have a strong counter-piracy role for the maritime sector, potentially greater than the role they play in land-based problems.

Read more
Prosecuting pirates

The Issue of Juvenile Piracy

Written by Jon Belish on June 15, 2015

This chapter was published as part of the book Prosecuting Maritime Piracy, editors Michael P. Scharf, Michael Newton, and Milena

Read more
Maritime Piracy 2014

The State of Maritime Piracy 2014

Written by Conor Seyle, Matthew R. Walje, Kellie Brandt, Peter Kerins, Megan Matthews, Tyler Maybee on June 10, 2015

This report is the fifth in a series by Oceans Beyond Piracy with support from OEF Research.These reports annually seek to assess the cost of maritime piracy - both economic and human - to the international community.

Read more

Pages