‘Group selection’ is the biological term for the possibility that a characteristic that is beneficial to the group but possibly costly to the individual is evolutionarily successful. Although logically possible, it is generally viewed with scepticism by biologists. It is not problematic that group selection would favour an equilibrium whose payoffs dominated those of another, because there is then no conflict with individual selection within each group. Group selection might reject inefficient equilibria in a repeated game, for example. Since human societies can support rather arbitrary outcomes as equilibria, group selection could play a role in human evolution.
KeywordsAltruism Assortative matching Cooperation and its evolution Cultural transmission Darwin, C. Evolution Exchange Group selection Hunter–gatherer economies Individual selection Kin selection Natural selection Other-regarding preferences Prisoner’s dilemma Punishment Repeated games Trust
I received helpful comments from Ted Bergstrom, Lawrence Blume, Sam Bowles, Steven Durlauf and Peter Sozou. I thank them without blaming them.
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