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Evolution of indirect reciprocity

Nature volume 437, pages 12911298 (27 October 2005) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Natural selection is conventionally assumed to favour the strong and selfish who maximize their own resources at the expense of others. But many biological systems, and especially human societies, are organized around altruistic, cooperative interactions. How can natural selection promote unselfish behaviour? Various mechanisms have been proposed, and a rich analysis of indirect reciprocity has recently emerged: I help you and somebody else helps me. The evolution of cooperation by indirect reciprocity leads to reputation building, morality judgement and complex social interactions with ever-increasing cognitive demands.

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Acknowledgements

Support from the John Templeton Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. The Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University is sponsored by Jeffrey Epstein.

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Affiliations

  1. Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Department of Mathematics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Martin A. Nowak
  2. Faculty for Mathematics, University of Vienna, A-1090 Vienna, Austria

    • Karl Sigmund
  3. IIASA, A-2631, Laxenburg, Austria

    • Karl Sigmund

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Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Karl Sigmund.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04131

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