Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

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

Altruism Defined By Benefits Conferred

  • Daniel FarrellyEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3529-1



An act of altruism involves not just a cost to the altruist but also means that another individual will benefit in different ways from the act.


The traditional view of evolution by natural selection emphasizes how individual organisms have adaptive traits that aid their ownsurvival and reproductive success, so that they pass their own genes onto future generations. When people therefore think of natural selection, they think of traits that benefit an individual directly and often at the expense of others, such as aggression, competition, and dominance, come to mind. However, equally important in the natural world are behaviors such as grooming, food-sharing, and charity, where an individual organism actually incurs a cost to help benefit another. This contribution will therefore explore why such altruistic behaviors, whereby an individual incurs a cost in order for another to benefit, can be...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WorcesterWorcesterUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kevin Kniffin
    • 1
  1. 1.Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA