Social evolution is a concept in evolutionary biology which describes social behaviours either associated with fitness benefits or consequences for individuals. The main social interactions include:
- Mutualism – This type of interaction is beneficial for the actor and the recipient, increasing fitness for both.
- Selfishness – This type of behaviour causes a fitness benefit for the actor and a decrease in fitness for the recipient. For example, betraying someone can lead to this type of fitness interaction.
- Altruism – This is the opposite of a selfish behaviour. In this interaction, the actor suffers a fitness loss, whereas the recipient experiences a fitness increase.
- Spitefulness – This type of interaction causes a fitness decrease for both players involved.
The prisoner’s dilemma is a concept discussed in evolutionary biology related to social evolution, which examines mutualistic and selfish interactions between prisoners. Ultimately, this scenario examines whether individuals are more likely to betray each other or cooperate.
Speciation and vertebrate evolution are also related to social evolution because different vertebrate groups and specific species have adopted behaviours through subsequent generations which are most beneficial to their survival. Species continually make choices which impact their fitness. Sometimes these interactions are for the better, whereas other times they may cause a fitness loss.
Social evolution is an important part of biology which overlaps with the subject of psychology in many ways. Species are complex organisms, with unique behaviours and motives, and social evolution is the field which studies that.
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