Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Altruistic side of aggressive greed

Date:
March 26, 2014
Source:
National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS)
Summary:
In many group-living species, high-rank individuals bully their group-mates to get what they want, but their contribution is key to success in conflict with other groups, according to a study that sheds new light on the evolutionary roots of cooperation and group conflict. In a series of mathematical models, researchers uncovered a mechanism for explaining how between-group conflict influences within-group cooperation and how genes for this behavior might be maintained in the population by natural selection.

Chimpanzees. High-rank individuals bully their group-mates to get what they want, but their contribution is key to success in conflict with other groups, according to a new study.
Credit: © KiWiE / Fotolia

In many group-living species, high-rank individuals bully their group-mates to get what they want, but their contribution is key to success in conflict with other groups, according to a study that sheds new light on the evolutionary roots of cooperation and group conflict.

Related Articles


In a series of mathematical models, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Oxford uncovered a mechanism for explaining how between-group conflict influences within-group cooperation and how genes for this behavior might be maintained in the population by natural selection.

Humans are unique in their innate ability and willingness to cooperate within groups ranging in size from small-scale forager bands to nations of millions of individuals. Yet, cooperation has its downsides as it can lead to what scientists call "the collective action problem," which says that if individual effort is costly and a group member can benefit from the action of group-mates, then there is an incentive to "free-ride," whereby effort is reduced or withdrawn completely. If a number of group-mates follow this logic, the public good is not produced and all group members suffer. The collective action problem also occurs in conflicts between groups: everyone benefits from the group's success, but achieving success requires costly contributions by members of the group.

The study, issued today as open access in the journal Nature Communications, shows that the collective action problem can be overcome in groups that have a hierarchical structure and high inequality. When within-group hierarchy and inequality are well established, high-rank individuals effectively spend their effort on competition with their peers in other groups. This competition then results in a seemingly altruistic behavior of the high-rank individuals as they make stronger effort, pay higher costs, and get smaller net benefit than their low-rank group mates who free-ride contributing nothing. The study also found that the total group effort that a group directs toward between-group conflict typically increases with the degree of hierarchy and inequality within the group.

The results are consistent with observations in nature across a range of species. The study cites chimpanzees, for example, whose high-rank males travel further into the periphery of the group during border patrols, and ring-tail lemurs and blue monkeys whose high-rank females participate more in the defense of communal feeding territories.

"As far as within-group interactions are concerned, the alpha males and females are 'bad guys' taking various resources from their group-mates. However, in between-group conflicts they become 'good guys' and their presence and effort benefit everybody else," said Sergey Gavrilets, NIMBioS' associate director for scientific activities and the study's lead author.

While the study focuses on social instincts, those genetically-based biases affecting individual behavior in social interactions, the authors point out that human behavior is controlled not only by genes but also by other factors, including culture, the environment and rational choice. The study suggests that humans may have an innate preference for an egalitarian social structure when there is relatively little between-group conflict and, conversely, an innate preference for a hierarchical social structure when levels of between-group conflict are high. The study also predicts that humans who find themselves in a leadership position may exhibit seemingly altruistic behavior.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sergey Gavrilets, Laura Fortunato. A solution to the collective action problem in between-group conflict with within-group inequality. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4526

Cite This Page:

National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). "Altruistic side of aggressive greed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140326092600.htm>.
National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). (2014, March 26). Altruistic side of aggressive greed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140326092600.htm
National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). "Altruistic side of aggressive greed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140326092600.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) — Slowed-down footage of the leaps of praying mantises show the insect&apos;s extraordinary precision, say researchers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Buzz60 (Mar. 5, 2015) — A photographer got the shot of a lifetime, or rather an octopus did, when it grabbed the camera and turned it around to take an amazing picture of the photographer. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) — The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its iconic elephant acts. The circus&apos; parent company, Feld Entertainment, told the AP exclusively that the acts will be phased out by 2018 over growing public concern about the animals. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) — Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins