Chapter

Altruism as showing off: a signalling perspective on promoting green behaviour and acts of kindness

Wendy Iredale and Mark van Vugt

in Applied Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199586073
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731358 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199586073.003.0011
Altruism as showing off: a signalling perspective on promoting green behaviour and acts of kindness

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In this chapter we discuss whether altruism towards genetic strangers may have evolved because of its reputation benefits – altruism as showing off. Traditional explanations for the evolution of altruism towards genetic strangers suggests we help others who will help us back; however, this restricted tit-for-tat scoring is not representative of most human altruism. Recent theories of costly signalling argue that altruism does not need to work directly as a process of 'I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine', but that it may have evolved because it signals underlying qualities about the individual that are important to others. Those who signal altruism may therefore increase their fitness through prestige and mating opportunities. We highlight real examples of how important it is for humans to be seen (and to compete to be seen) as altruistic. We show that there are preferences towards altruistic individuals as mates, especially by females. Finally, we discuss how signaling theory could be applied to promote environmental conservation and charity giving.

Keywords: altruism; signaling; charity giving; bystander helping; environmental conservation; kindness; mate choice

Chapter.  7960 words. 

Subjects: Psychology

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