Competition for Cooperation: Variability, benefits and heritability of relational wealth in hunter-gatherers

Nikhil Chaudhary*, Gul Deniz Salali, James Thompson, Aude Rey, Pascale Gerbault, Edward Geoffrey Jedediah Stevenson, Mark Dyble, Abigail E. Page, Daniel Smith, Ruth Mace, Lucio Vinicius, Andrea Bamberg Migliano

*Corresponding author for this work

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

13 Citations (Scopus)
321 Downloads (Pure)


Many defining human characteristics including theory of mind, culture and language relate to our sociality, and facilitate the formation and maintenance of cooperative relationships. Therefore, deciphering the context in which our sociality evolved is invaluable in understanding what makes us unique as a species. Much work has emphasised group-level competition, such as warfare, in moulding human cooperation and sociality. However, competition and cooperation also occur within groups; and inter-individual differences in sociality have reported fitness implications in numerous non-human taxa. Here we investigate whether differential access to cooperation (relational wealth) is likely to lead to variation in fitness at the individual level among BaYaka hunter-gatherers. Using economic gift games we find that relational wealth: a) displays individual-level variation; b) provides advantages in buffering food risk, and is positively associated with body mass index (BMI) and female fertility; c) is partially heritable. These results highlight that individual-level processes may have been fundamental in the extension of human cooperation beyond small units of related individuals, and in shaping our sociality. Additionally, the findings offer insight in to trends related to human sociality found from research in other fields such as psychology and epidemiology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number29120
Number of pages7
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2016

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