Send to

Choose Destination
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 May 13;105(19):6982-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0712173105. Epub 2008 Apr 30.

Selfishness as second-order altruism.

Author information

Department of Biological Sciences, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY 13902-6000, USA.


Selfishness is seldom considered a group-beneficial strategy. In the typical evolutionary formulation, altruism benefits the group, selfishness undermines altruism, and the purpose of the model is to identify mechanisms, such as kinship or reciprocity, that enable altruism to evolve. Recent models have explored punishment as an important mechanism favoring the evolution of altruism, but punishment can be costly to the punisher, making it a form of second-order altruism. This model identifies a strategy called "selfish punisher" that involves behaving selfishly in first-order interactions and altruistically in second-order interactions by punishing other selfish individuals. Selfish punishers cause selfishness to be a self-limiting strategy, enabling altruists to coexist in a stable equilibrium. This polymorphism can be regarded as a division of labor, or mutualism, in which the benefits obtained by first-order selfishness help to "pay" for second-order altruism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center