A friend in need is a friend indeed: Need-based sharing, rather than cooperative assortment, predicts experimental resource transfers among Agta hunter-gatherers

Daniel Smith*, Mark Dyble, Katie Major, Abigail E. Page, Nikhil Chaudhary, Gul Deniz Salali, James Thompson, Lucio Vinicius, Andrea Bamberg Migliano, Ruth Mace

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
268 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Despite much theorizing, the evolutionary reasons why humans cooperate extensively with unrelated individuals are still largely unknown. While reciprocity explains many instances of non-kin cooperation, much remains to be understood. A recent suite of models based upon ‘cooperative assortativity’ suggest that non-kin cooperation can evolve if individuals preferentially assort with certain cooperative phenotypes, such as helping those who help others. Here, we test these assortative hypotheses among the Agta, a population of Filipino hunter-gatherers, using an experimental resource allocation game in which individuals divide resources between themselves and camp-mates. Individuals preferentially shared with less cooperative individuals, arguing against cooperative assortativity as a mechanism sustaining resource transfers in this population. Rather, sharing was often based on the recipient's level of need, in addition to kin-based transfers and reciprocal sharing. Contrary to several recent theoretical accounts, in this real-world setting we find no evidence for cooperative assortativity influencing patterns of cooperation. These results may reflect the demands of living in a foraging ecology characterized by high resource stochasticity, necessitating need-based sharing as a system of long-term reciprocity to mitigate repeated subsistence shortfalls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-89
Number of pages8
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Volume40
Issue number1
Early online date16 Aug 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Keywords

  • Cooperation
  • Assortativity
  • Need-based sharing
  • Reciprocity
  • Hunter-gatherers
  • Experimental games

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