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Trends Ecol Evol. 2004 Mar;19(3):135-40.

What is altruism?

Author information

1
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, 100 Ecology, 1987 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA. bkerr@stanford.edu

Abstract

Altruism is generally understood to be behavior that benefits others at a personal cost to the behaving individual. However, within evolutionary biology, different authors have interpreted the concept of altruism differently, leading to dissimilar predictions about the evolution of altruistic behavior. Generally, different interpretations diverge on which party receives the benefit from altruism and on how the cost of altruism is assessed. Using a simple trait-group framework, we delineate the assumptions underlying different interpretations and show how they relate to one another. We feel that a thorough examination of the connections between interpretations not only reveals why different authors have arrived at disparate conclusions about altruism, but also illuminates the conditions that are likely to favor the evolution of altruism.

PMID:
16701244
DOI:
10.1016/j.tree.2003.10.004

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