Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

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

Reciprocal Altruism and Group Living

  • Maik M. P. TheelenEmail author
  • Robert Böhm
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3723-1



Self-costly acts that confer benefits on others are reciprocated by the recipients such that a mutual benefit is gained. This reciprocal favoritism may be a mechanism relevant to the formation and persistence of group living.


Group living is an elemental part of human life and is essential for the survival and replication of our species. Thanks to group living we have been more effective in hunting and protecting ourselves from predators through cooperation. One peculiar phenomenon observed in human group living is that individuals provide self-costly and seemingly altruistic benefits to other group members. For instance, someone might save a group member from drowning (benefit to the recipient) and thereby risking his/her own life (cost to the helper). Humans show such kind of behaviors even toward genetically unrelated others, such that inclusive fitness and kin...


Inclusive Fitness Group Living Reciprocal Altruism Indirect Reciprocity Strong Reciprocity 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Business and EconomicsRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany