Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Social interaction with a cost to self or one’s individual fitness, for the benefit of a recipient(s), whose fitness is increased; selfless behavior within a species. According to E. O. Wilson and others, altruism may be either rational, conscious, or conscious and influenced by emotion. One of three classes of cost-benefit behaviors in the theory of sociobiology (the others are selfishness and spite). Altruism is a central problem of both sociobiology and Darwinism.

See behavioral ecology and limbic system.

Cf. reciprocity and nepotism.

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