Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Problem of Cheating

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1210-1



Cheating is a strategy or behavior that exploits social agreements of cooperation; from a genetic fitness perspective, cheating benefits the cheat while causing detriment to the cooperator.


Cheats or free-riders are organisms that take advantage of the cooperative social behaviors of other organisms either within or outside of their species in order to obtain resources and/or mating opportunities while incurring less cost than would normally be associated with their acquisition. Ghoul et al. (2014, p. 319) define cheating as “(i) a trait that is beneficial to a cheat and costly to a cooperator in terms of inclusive fitness (ii) when these benefits and costs arise from the actor directing a cooperative behavior toward the cheat, rather than the intended recipient.” However, the term “cheat” has been used somewhat inconsistently throughout the evolutionary and ecological literature leading some researchers to...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Jaimie Arona Krems
    • 1
  1. 1.Oklamoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA