Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

George Williams on Group Selection

  • Nora BalboaEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1873-1



In the study of adaptation, George Williams makes clear that group selection is not a valid explanation for traits developed by individual organisms. In his book Adaptation and Natural Selection (1966), he outlines some previous claims concerning the validity of group selection and discusses how they are frequently inadequate to explain the adaptation and evolution of species. There are several theories to which he gives some merit, but only in special cases that are not common in nature.


Group selection, to George Williams, is frequently not a plausible explanation for the way that individual organisms develop adaptations that enable them to survive in their respective environments. While he concedes that there are a select few group selection theories that have merit, he largely considers the approach to be misguided. While it often might seem that a population has evolved, Williams (1966) argues that in actuality the survival of the...

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  3. Williams, G. C. (1966). Adaptation and natural selection: A critique of some current evolutionary thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Gary L Brase
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA