Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Hamilton’s Rule

Precept that presents the conditions under which an altruistic act will occur. For an altruistic allele to increase in frequency, the altruist must be related to the recipient(s) in such a way that the genetic benefit to the recipients outweighs the genetic cost to the altruist. This has often been expressed as genetically worthwhile to the altruist if it saved the lives of two siblings (who share half the alleles of the altruist), four nieces or nephews (who share one-fourth of the altruist’s alleles), or eight cousins (who share one-eighth of the altruist’s alleles); i.e. Br C 0, where B is the benefit to the recipient, C is the cost to the actor, and r is the coefficient of relatedness between the two individuals. Proposed by British biologist W. D. Hamilton.

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