Darwinian Viewpoint of Reciprocal Altruism in the Society

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The human species is a very social one, as social behaviour is more common in humans than other animals. One very common behaviour, however, is altruism. Altruism is when we act in a way that promotes someone's welfare, even at risk or cost to ourselves. We tend to cooperate rather than compete, and it's suggested that this cooperative behaviour allowed our ancestors to survive and thrive [1] [2]. In this Post-modern era, altruism can be seen in our everyday lives, from holding the door for someone to performing heroic acts, yet some examples are extraordinary and extremely risky. An old example is, Irena Sendler who was a Polish social worker during WWII. Irena created a secret network that rescued 2,500 children from the Warshaw Ghetto, where thousands of Jews were imprisoned during the Holocaust [3]. A more modern example is the 9 years old boy Lin Hao who saved two of his classmates after an earthquake that caused the school building to collapse [4]. Seeing these examples we recognise their courage, and their selfless spirit, risking their lives for others, and it's evident that humans were altruistic throughout history. But the major question is, why? Why did they act in such way? If Irena was caught she would've been undoubtedly executed, and Lin Hao could've been easily crashed by rumbles. So why did they take these risks?

From a Darwinian viewpoint, the existence of altruism is puzzling. We are expected to act in a selfish way to increase our own chances of survival, and so altruism should have been eliminated by natural selection years ago, yet it still exists in today's society [5]. Acknowledging this, Maynard Smith (1964) introduced the term kin selection where it's implied that altruistic behaviour is more likely to be shown towards genetically close relatives than random individuals. In this way by helping your kin, the gene of your family is more likely to survive, which is the main concept of natural selection, gene survival. This is called indirect fitness where the gene survives by helping the survival of non-descendant kin such as siblings, rather than gaining gene survival through the production of offspring (direct fitness) [6]. So from a biological perspective, altruism is caused by the altruistic gene that has survived and helped the human race to thrive. However, this explanation only accounts for altruism within our kin [5].

Altruism among unrelated organisms is often referred to reciprocal altruism. Reciprocal altruism involves the tendency to reciprocate altruism done to you, but it would be likely to evolve if the cost of helping the other was sufficiently low, and the value of being helped was sufficiently high [7]. According to Trivers (1971), in order for reciprocal altruism to work, individuals should interact with each other more than once, in order to recognize individuals with whom they have interacted in that past [5]. That is in order to be able to recognize the 'cheats' who would take advantage of altruism and not be altruistic, and punish those who do not reciprocate in order to make reciprocal altruism a stable evolutionary strategy [7]. So altruistic behaviour survived because helping others resulted in them helping you which increased the rate of your own survival. A more cognitive view of altruism however is perspective taking. Oswald (1996) has argued that the reason why we act in an altruistic way is because of empathy, being able to see the position of another person from that person's point of view.

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Darwinian Viewpoint of Reciprocal Altruism in the Society. (2020, November 11). WritingBros. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/darwinian-viewpoint-of-reciprocal-altruism-in-the-society/
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Darwinian Viewpoint of Reciprocal Altruism in the Society [Internet]. WritingBros. 2020 Nov 11 [cited 2024 Jul 14]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/darwinian-viewpoint-of-reciprocal-altruism-in-the-society/
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