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Annu Rev Psychol. 2015 Jan 3;66:575-99. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010814-015355. Epub 2014 Jul 25.

The evolution of altruism in humans.

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Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19146; email:


Humans are an intensely social species, frequently performing costly behaviors that benefit others. Efforts to solve the evolutionary puzzle of altruism have a lengthy history, and recent years have seen many important advances across a range of disciplines. Here we bring together this interdisciplinary body of research and review the main theories that have been proposed to explain human prosociality, with an emphasis on kinship, reciprocity, indirect reciprocity, punishment, and morality. We highlight recent methodological advances that are stimulating research and point to some areas that either remain controversial or merit more attention.


adaptationism; conflict; cooperation; kinship; prosociality; punishment; reciprocity

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