The Evolution of Altruism via Social Addiction

Julie Hui and Terrence Deacon

in Social Brain, Distributed Mind

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780197264522
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734724 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

The Evolution of Altruism via Social Addiction

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Each generation of evolutionary biologists has brought a fresh wave of attempts to answer the evolutionary riddle of altruism. However, none describe how such a condition could incrementally evolve from a prior condition of non-cooperation. This chapter describes a mechanism that could spontaneously and incrementally give rise to a synergistic codependence among individuals within a social group. It shows that prolonged social living in the absence of reproductive cost can mask selection-maintaining traits important for autonomous living, causing them to drift and degrade to the point where individuals can no longer succeed outside the social context. This ‘social addiction’ will subsequently favour traits that maintain social cohesion because of the high cost of group dispersion. This mechanism contributes a missing complementary component to existing selection-based explanations of the evolution of pro-social and altruistic behaviours.

Keywords: evolutionary biologists; synergistic codependence; social living; social cohesion; group dispersion

Chapter.  8837 words. 

Subjects: Psychology

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