Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 08 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Evolutionary psychologists seek to understand prosocial behavior at four complementary levels of analysis: psychological mechanisms, development of those mechanisms (ontogeny), their adaptive or evolutionary function, and their evolutionary history (phylogeny). In terms of adaptive function, prosocial behavior is often costly to perform, so it is an evolutionary enigma. To evolve and be maintained, prosocial sentiment needs to bring corresponding fitness benefits. The authors outline a number of such evolutionary functions of prosocial behavior. Adaptive functions include direct benefits, mutualisms, stake or vested interests, kinship, reciprocity (direct and indirect), and costly signaling. Nonadaptive functions include mistakes, byproducts, and cultural learning. They provide a diagnostic tool for determining the likely function of any particular prosocial act and discuss three emerging perspectives in the study of prosocial behavior: scale of competition, multilevel selection, and biological markets. We conclude with future directions in evolutionary research on prosocial behavior.

Keywords: altruism, cooperation, reciprocity, costly signaling, evolutionary psychology, levels of analysis

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.