Conflict with conspecifics from neighbouring groups over territory, mating opportunities and other resources is observed in many social organisms, including humans. Here we investigate the evolutionary origins of social instincts, as shaped by selection resulting from between-group conflict in the presence of a collective action problem. We focus on the effects of the differences between individuals on the evolutionary dynamics. Our theoretical models predict that high-rank individuals, who are able to usurp a disproportional share of resources in within-group interactions, will act seemingly altruistically in between-group conflict, expending more effort and often having lower reproductive success than their low-rank group-mates. Similar behaviour is expected for individuals with higher motivation, higher strengths or lower costs, or for individuals in a leadership position. Our theory also provides an evolutionary foundation for classical equity theory, and it has implications for the origin of coercive leadership and for reproductive skew theory.


A solution to the collective action problem in between-group conflict with within-group inequality
• Sergey Gavrilets & Laura Fortunato

Nature Communications 5, Article number: 3526 ;

Via Complexity Digest