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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Social evolution is a subdiscipline of evolutionary biology that is concerned with social behaviours, i.e. those that have fitness consequences for individuals other than the actor. Social behaviours can be categorized according to the fitness consequences they entail for the actor and recipient.

  • Mutually beneficial - a behaviour that increases the direct fitness of both the actor and the recipient
  • Selfish - a behaviour that increases the direct fitness of the actor, but the recipient suffers a loss
  • Altruistic - a behaviour that increases the direct fitness of the recipient, but the actor suffers a loss
  • Spiteful - a behaviour that decreases the direct fitness of both the actor and the recipient

This classification was proposed by W. D. Hamilton. He proposes that natural selection favours mutually beneficial or selfish behaviours. Hamilton's insight was to show how kin selection could explain altruism and spite.

Social evolution is also often regarded (especially, in the field of social anthropology) as evolution of social systems and structures [1].

Social Evolution is also the title of an important work by Benjamin Kidd.



  1. ^ see, e.g., Evolution and culture. Ed. by Marshall David Sahlins and Elman Service. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1960; Andrey Korotayev, Nikolay Kradin, Victor de Munck, and Valeri Lynsha. Alternatives of Social Evolution: An Introduction. Alternatives of Social Evolution. Vladivostok: Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2009. P.12-59.

See also


  • Frank, S.A. (1998). Foundations of social evolution. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ.[1]
  • Hamilton, W.D. (1964). The genetical evolution of social behaviour I and II. — Journal of Theoretical Biology 7: 1-16 and 17-52.
  • Korotayev, Andrey (2004). World Religions and Social Evolution of the Old World Oikumene Civilizations: A Cross-cultural Perspective (First Edition ed.). Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 0-7734-6310-0.  

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