The co-evolution of culturally inherited altruistic helping and cultural transmission under random group formation. (English) Zbl 1210.92020

Summary: Limited migration results in kin selective pressure on helping behaviors under a wide range of ecological, demographic and life-history situations. However, such genetically determined altruistic helping can evolve only when migration is not too strong and group size is not too large. Cultural inheritance of helping behaviors may allow altruistic helping to evolve in groups of larger size because cultural transmission has the potential to markedly decrease the variance within groups and augment the variance between groups. We study the co-evolution of culturally inherited altruistic helping behaviors and two alternative cultural transmission rules for such behaviors. We find that conformist transmission, where individuals within groups tend to copy prevalent cultural variants (e.g., beliefs or values), has a strong adverse effect on the evolution of culturally inherited helping traits. This finding is at variance with the commonly held view that conformist transmission is a crucial factor favoring the evolution of altruistic helping in humans. By contrast, we find that under one-to-many transmission, where individuals within groups tend to copy a “leader” (or teacher), altruistic helping can evolve in groups of any size, although the cultural transmission rule itself hitchhikes rather weakly with a selected helping trait. Our results suggest that culturally determined helping behaviors are more likely to be driven by “leaders” than by popularity, but the emergence and stability of the cultural transmission rules themselves should be driven by some extrinsic factors.


92D15 Problems related to evolution
91D10 Models of societies, social and urban evolution


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