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Altruism: The unrecognized selfish traits

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Unlike Sober and Wilson, I suggest that in all cases of benefits conferred on others the direct fitness of the altruist increases. The benefit to others (group, kin, etc.) created by the altruistic act is only a consequence of the altruistic adaptation, and not the evolutionary mechanism that created it. In many cases the investment in the altruistic act, like handicaps required for signalling in general, attests to the social prestige of the altruist and thus increases its fitness. In other cases the ‘altruist’ is a phenotype that has only minute chances to reproduce, and what seems to be an altruistic act actually increases somewhat these meagre chances. It is easy to overlook this marginal benefit to the ‘altruist'. Still, if that selfish benefit to the altruist -- i.e., an increase in its direct fitness -- did not exist, the altruistic acts that benefit the group could not have evolved.

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Institute for Nature Conservation Research, Tel-Aviv University, Tel Aviv, 69978, Israel.

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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