Human Nature

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 105–128 | Cite as

Altruistic cooperation during foraging by the Ache, and the evolved human predisposition to cooperate

  • Kim HillEmail author


This paper presents quantitative data on altruistic cooperation during food acquisition by Ache foragers. Cooperative activities are defined as those that entail a cost of time and energy to the donor but primarily lead to an increase in the foraging success of the recipient. Data show that Ache men and women spend about 10% of all foraging time engaged in altruistic cooperation on average, and that on some days they may spend more than 50% of their foraging time in such activities. The most time-consuming cooperative activity for both sexes is helping during the pursuit of game animals, a pattern that is probably linked to the widespread sharing of game by Ache foragers. Cooperative food acquisition and subsequent food redistribution in hunter-gatherer societies are critical behaviors that probably helped shape universal, evolved, cooperative tendencies that are well illustrated in modern experimental economics.

Key words

Ache Altruism Cooperation Food acquisition Foraging Hunter-gatherers Sexual division of labor 


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Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerque

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