Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

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


  • Nigel NicholsonEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3083-1


Nepotism is the favoring of kin over nonkin in resource allocation, nurturing, or attention.


At first sight, nepotism is quite obviously a product of evolutionary processes, by virtue of being an extension of genetic self-interest. As Forbes (2005, p. 83) puts it, paraphrasing Richard Dawkins: “Children are the vehicles that carry a parent’s genetic immortality.” The evolutionary origins of the word are visible in its ontogeny, a linguistic route from the mid-seventeenth century: nipote “nephew.” The Popes bestowed privileges on their “nephews” who in reality were more often than not their illegitimate sons. This perfectly illustrates the contemporary meaning in social life: patronage in public life on the basis of family relatedness. Some definitions include the favoring of friends, which shall be treated as a special case later in this entry.

Issues and Dilemmas

Yet there are potential conflicts of interest in nepotism, the primary one being the question of...


Family Firm Parental Investment Kinship Group Inclusive Fitness Multilevel Selection 
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© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Organisational BehaviourLondon Business SchoolLondonUK