Camp stability predicts patterns of hunter-gatherer cooperation

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

*Corresponding author for this work

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

21 Citations (Scopus)
257 Downloads (Pure)


Humans regularly cooperate with non-kin, which has been theorized to require reciprocity between repeatedly interacting and trusting individuals. However, the role of repeated interactions has not previously been demonstrated in explaining real-world patterns of hunter-gatherer cooperation. Here we explore cooperation among the Agta, a population of Filipino hunter-gatherers, using data from both actual resource transfers and two experimental games across multiple camps. Patterns of cooperation vary greatly between camps and depend on socio-ecological context. Stable camps (with fewer changes inmembership over time) were associated with greater reciprocal sharing, indicating that an increased likelihood of future interactions facilitates reciprocity. This is the first study reporting an association between reciprocal cooperation and hunter-gatherer band stability. Under conditions of low camp stability individuals still acquire resources from others, but do so via demand sharing (taking from others), rather than based on reciprocal considerations. Hunter-gatherer cooperation may either be characterized as reciprocity or demand sharing depending on socio-ecological conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number160131
Number of pages12
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number7
Early online date13 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • Cooperation
  • Demand sharing
  • Experimental games
  • Hunter-gatherers
  • Mobility
  • Reciprocity

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