Social evolution
Social evolution is a subdiscipline of evolutionary biology that is concerned with social behaviors that have fitness consequences for individuals other than the actor. Social behaviors can be categorized according to the fitness consequences they entail for the actor and recipient.
  • Mutually beneficial – a behavior that increases the direct fitness of both the actor and the recipient
  • Selfish – a behavior that increases the direct fitness of the actor, but the recipient suffers a loss
  • Altruistic – a behavior that increases the direct fitness of the recipient, but the actor suffers a loss
  • Spiteful – a behavior that decreases the direct fitness of both the actor and the recipient

This classification was proposed by W. D. Hamilton
W. D. Hamilton
William Donald Hamilton FRS was a British evolutionary biologist, widely recognised as one of the greatest evolutionary theorists of the 20th century....

. He proposes that natural selection favors mutually beneficial or selfish behaviors. Hamilton's insight was to show how kin selection
Kin selection
Kin selection refers to apparent strategies in evolution that favor the reproductive success of an organism's relatives, even at a cost to the organism's own survival and reproduction. Charles Darwin was the first to discuss the concept of group/kin selection...

 could explain altruism
Altruism is a concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of 'others' toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism is the opposite of...

 and spite
In fair division problems, spite is a phenomenon that occurs when a player's value of an allocation decreases when one or more other players' valuation increases...


Social evolution is also often regarded (especially, in the field of social anthropology
Social anthropology
Social Anthropology is one of the four or five branches of anthropology that studies how contemporary human beings behave in social groups. Practitioners of social anthropology investigate, often through long-term, intensive field studies , the social organization of a particular person: customs,...

) as evolution of social systems and structures.

In 2010, famed Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson
E. O. Wilson
Edward Osborne Wilson is an American biologist, researcher , theorist , naturalist and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants....

, a founder of modern sociobiology, proposed a new theory of social evolution. He argued that the traditional approach of focusing on eusociality had limitations, which he illustrated primarily with examples from the insect world.

A parallel theory of progressive social evolution has been advanced by followers of Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era....

 (1820–1903). This theory rejects the conventional religious concept of human sin, which was based on the idea that, after the fall from grace, the human condition was eternally corrupt.

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