Kinship and Cooperation
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- Alvard, M. Hum Nat (2009) 20: 394. doi:10.1007/s12110-009-9074-4
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Chagnon’s analysis of a well-known axe fight in the Yanomamö village of Mishimishiböwei-teri (Chagnon and Bugos 1979) is among the earliest empirical tests of kin selection theory for explaining cooperation in humans. Kin selection theory describes how cooperation can be organized around genetic kinship and is a fundamental tool for understanding cooperation within family groups. Previous analysis on groups of cooperative Lamaleran whale hunters suggests that the role of genetic kinship as a principle for organizing cooperative human groups could be less important in certain cases than previously thought (Alvard Human Nature 14:129–163, 2003b). Evidence that supports a strong role for genetic kinship—groups are found to be more related than expected by chance—may be spurious because of the correlation between social structure and genetic kinship. Reanalysis of Chagnon’s data using matrix regression techniques, however, confirms that genetic kinship was the primary organizing principle in the axe fight; affinal relations were also important, whereas lineage identity explained nothing.