Re: Trivers' Reciprocal Altruism

From: ben payne (
Date: Fri Oct 31 1997 - 14:34:05 GMT

Trivers model for reciprocal altruism aims to show evidenc of
cross-species altruistic relationships, and non-kin based exchanges in
terms of helping another at some cost to themselves. the form of
exchange is considered, at an apparent sub-conscious level, in terms of
what worth it is to the giver to expend energy or resources to help an
individual who may not necessarily be related to them. This idea of the
"cost/benefit" value of any act that will help another has an unerlying
drive concerned with promoting the overall success of the individual's

This form of behaviour is, according to the model proposed by Trivers,
the result of natural selection. the example of the cleaning symbiosis
shown in certain types of fish, where large grouper fish allow small
cleaner fish to swim inside their mouths to nibble away the
ectoparasites. the overall benefit of allowing the smaller fish to
freely clean up without eating them up afterwards is greater than if
they were to gobble them up once the job was done. Natural selection
has "taught" these species how this exchange of behaviour is best for
them, showing that ultimately, it is the individuals interests that
determine such altruistic behaviours.

Human reciprocal altruism is seen to be a highly complex behavioural
concept. The idea of cheating is discussed, adding further
considerations to the ways in which we can most benefit ourselves at a
"calculated" cost to us. Non-reciprocation, where acts of charity from
others are not repaid, does not help the individual, as it leads to a
rejection from others in the form of aggression, loss of trust and the
break up of altruistic relationships, which all have no long term
benefit to the non-reciprocator ("cheater").

The detection of such cheating and the undelyiong emotions (guilt,
sympathy, gratitude and aggression) that are experienced in altruistic
relations, have according to Trivers , have all been selected for to
form the basis of human behaviour that encourages optimum success in
the passing on of genes, which can be adapted to fit in with the
surrounding environmental and individual determining factors.

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