Social evolution is a subdiscipline of evolutionary biology that is concerned with social behaviors that have fitness consequences for individuals other than the actor. It is also a subdiscipline of sociology that studies evolution of social systems.
Social behaviors can be categorized according to the fitness consequences they entail for the actor and recipient.
- Mutually beneficial – a behavior that increases the direct fitness of both the actor and the recipient
- Selfish – a behavior that increases the direct fitness of the actor, but the recipient suffers a loss
- Altruistic – a behavior that increases the direct fitness of the recipient, but the actor may suffer a loss
- Spiteful – a behavior that decreases the direct fitness of both the actor and the recipient
This classification was proposed by W. D. Hamilton, arguing that natural selection favors mutually beneficial or selfish behaviors. Hamilton's insight was to show how kin selection could explain altruism and spite.
In 2010, Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson, a founder of modern sociobiology, proposed a new theory of social evolution. He argued that the traditional approach of focusing on eusociality had limitations, which he illustrated primarily with examples from the insect world.
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- Alternatives of Social Evolution: An Introduction
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