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Understanding cooperation through fitness interdependence

Some acts of human cooperation are not easily explained by traditional models of kinship or reciprocity. Fitness interdependence may provide a unifying conceptual framework, in which cooperation arises from the mutual dependence for survival or reproduction, as occurs among mates, risk-pooling partnerships and brothers-in-arms.

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Fig. 1: Interdependence is pervasive in human societies and it often includes mutual dependence for survival and/or reproduction.
Fig. 2: Fitness interdependence can be conceptualized as ‘rising and falling together’ in terms of success in replicating genes.


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The authors thank all the participants in the Fitness Interdependence Workshop held at Arizona State University in February 2017, including G. Roberts and H. Wasielewski who provided valuable feedback on this manuscript. We also acknowledge the support of the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University and the Human Generosity Project. We also thank S. Brown for valuable comments and feedback on this manuscript. The work of A.A. and L.C. was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation (grant number 46724) and the work of D.B. was supported by European Research Council Starting Grant (number 635356). Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

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Correspondence to Athena Aktipis.

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Aktipis, A., Cronk, L., Alcock, J. et al. Understanding cooperation through fitness interdependence. Nat Hum Behav 2, 429–431 (2018).

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