The Phylogeny and Ontogeny of Prosocial Behavior

Joan B. Silk and Bailey R. House

in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199738182
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 The Phylogeny and Ontogeny of Prosocial Behavior

Show Summary Details


Humans rely on cooperation among large numbers of unrelated group members to a much greater extent than any other animals do. Moreover, most people have social preferences that motivate them to feel concern for the welfare of others and take advantage of opportunities to behave altruistically toward others. This raises two important questions: Are differences in the form, extent, and scope of cooperation among humans and other primates associated with differences in the nature of their social preferences? How do social preferences unfold over the course of development in humans? Here, we review a growing body of research that addresses these two questions. We focus on a set of experiments that were inspired by research in behavioral economics. In these experiments, subjects are presented with choices that have different material payoffs for themselves and others, and the choices that subjects make reveal their underlying preferences. This work is allowing researchers to begin to map out the phylogeny and ontogeny of social preferences in humans and other primates.

Keywords: Altruism; punishment; fairness; inequity aversion; Dictator game; Ultimatum game

Article.  13218 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.