Altruism has more of an evolutionary advantage than selfishness. Scientists say they have proved that doing good things for no personal gain can have an evolutionary advantage in the long run. Altruism is real and developed because it confers an evolutionary advantage that is ultimately greater than the benefits of selfishness, an international team of mathematicians claims to have proved.
Dr Tim Rogers, a co-author of a paper about the new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, said:
“If you have two groups of people, one of whom was very altruistic and another group that was more selfish, it’s the altruistic, more social guys, who are better able to survive the bad winter or the drought…But if it’s always better to cheat, why doesn’t everybody cheat? The answer is it brings you bad luck, in a sense…altruistic behaviour is favoured by chance when the benefits of cheating are sufficiently small compared to a, how well the population would do without any cheats, and b, the typical size of random fluctuations in the population.”
The paper could have significant real-world implications.
“Our research suggests if society goes down a more selfish route, then it’s going to be less able to do well and survive the harsh realities of the world we live in,” Dr Rogers said. “Take the behaviour of the banks leading up to the [2008 financial] crisis … people were able to cash in on bad decisions before the big event that triggered the crash in the system.” The bankers were partly influenced by the desire to get annual bonuses. “That short-term thinking means they are not exposed yet to the random fluctuations that would drive the increase in altruism,” Dr Rogers said. He pointed to a suggestion that it might be better if bankers’ bonuses were delayed by a number of years and said this could “help even out that sense of taking really short-term, instantaneous gains” and promote more responsible behaviour.