Home Economic Trends Altruism – Economics or Biology? Both

Altruism – Economics or Biology? Both

Organisms survive and continue to live. Organisms must send their genes into the future in order to continue living. In order to send their genes into the future, they must have the ability and the conditions to do so. To create the opportunities and conditions for continued life, an organism must be able to do two things: be adaptable to its environment – to withstand threats and take advantage of opportunities – and be able to compete within a species or population. As a species, an organism competes with its environment; as an individual, it competes with other members of the species.

Social organisms and organisms occupying highly competitive compacted ecological niches compete mainly within their species membership, among themselves (r-strategists). Non-social species, where competition within the species is low but pressure from the external environment and other species is high, focus competition on individual adaptation to the environment and interspecific competition (k-strategists). Some species are hybrid in this sense.

The interaction of the individual with the environment is composed of two entities. First, it is the type of relationship with the environment: social or individual, high-cost or low-cost, etc. Second, it is the mode of such relationships: aggressive competition, cooperation, hybrid parasitism, etc. Relationship types represent strategic evolutionary niches of adaptability and genetic expansion through social formations or individualism. For example, individualism is justified in the case of high-cost reproduction of one’s genes in low-competitive but hard to master ecological niches, such as eagles, condors, and tigers. At the same time, sociality is a valid strategy for meadow dogs, where the ecological niche involves high availability of resources but also significant risks from the environment and other species. Relationship modes are mechanisms of existence in strategic evolutionary niches: aggressive competition or cooperation with self or other species, etc.

In general, both interspecies and intraspecies relationships have three main strategic categories: cooperation, competition, and hybrid relationships. These strategies and the tactics that comprise them enable species and individuals to evolve and win evolutionary struggles.

Consider these strategies and tactics.

CONCURRENCY. Competition is competition for advantage. Advantage is the possession of a better ability to survive and reproduce. Rivalry can be aggressive and passive, mobilization and positional. Rivalry can concern both interspecies advantage (in which case the rival is the environment) and individual advantage, where the rival is other members of the species.

We can refer to competitive tactics as the root biotic competitive relationship as follows:

active (coercive and overt) or positional (covert or manipulative) aggression, actually aimed at the physical suppression or subjugation of a rival of the same species or another species in order to obtain better ecological opportunities or intraspecific advantages for maximum individual genetic spread;

predation – as a way of energetically providing or possessing benefits through the physical killing of another organism for one’s own benefit;

antibiosis – the infliction of harm on other organisms within or outside the species with no direct goal of directly benefiting linearly from that harm. This kind of relationship could also be referred to a hybrid kind of relationship, amensalism, since the costs of the party receiving them are not the direct goal of the acting party. However, when the actions of one organism result in large costs for the other, and the acting organism continues to develop and expand its legacy, such an interaction can rather be categorized as competition.

COOPERATION. Cooperation is the non-aggressive interaction of different individuals within or outside a species to satisfy the different or joint interests of all parties involved. In cooperation, all actors are beneficiaries, perhaps with different goals and to different degrees. Tactics of cooperation can include the following:

Mutualism – positive interaction between organisms within a species or between different species for immediate mutual and not necessarily equilibrium benefits;

Commensalism – cooperation in which one party benefits while the other party voluntarily receives no obvious benefits, but also bears the costs. Sometimes commensalism is referred to as a type of parasitism. However, this is not entirely true, since parasitism involves benefits to one side and, as a rule, deferred threats to the other, which makes parasitism similar to antibiosis as well. Compensationism, as a type of relationship, is considered cooperative because neither party incurs significant costs, but one party definitely benefits;

symbiosis is a type of cooperation that has developed into an inseparable dependence between two organisms, and the termination of which entails the death of both organisms. Symbiosis is a risky kind of mutually beneficial cooperation, where the costs of one party mean equilibrium costs for the other, since the vital risks of one organism carry risks for the other. This kind of cooperation, when viewed as an evolutionary pathway, is a losing and mostly weakly competitive one compared to other modes of evolutionary progradation;

altruism is a type of cooperation which is essentially mutualism with consensually deferred reward from one of the participants, the beneficiary, and voluntary approval of such an advance from the donor. In fact, altruism is a high form of mutually beneficial (but not necessarily conscious) cooperation due to the presence of an advance, which implies consensual trust, and thus a high level of development of the cooperating individuals.

HYBRID RELATIONSHIPS. Hybrid relationships include those that do not have linear dependence of goals and results of acting of interacting organisms and where one party receives benefits with unobvious or deferred costs on the other party, or vice versa, the costs of one party are high and the benefits of the opposite party are insignificant. Such relationships can be called hybrid because they have no linear determination and can be attributed with this or that degree of assumptions and discounts to any of the tactics of cooperation or competition. They may include:

Parasitism, a mode of relationship between two parties where one organism receives benefits while the organism on the other side has no benefits and incurs no costs or the costs are deferred in time. Sometimes parasitism is also referred to commensalism;

amensalism is a mode of relationship between organisms in which one individual suppresses another within or outside the species, but receives no obvious benefit from it. It is a rather rare type of relationship between organisms both within species and in interspecies interactions

Neutrality is the cohabitation of species with no linear direct influence on each other.

Any forms of human interactions as one way of manifesting species nature have biological foundations, or rather are derived from biotic types of organic interactions.

The most inherently biotic types of relationships for the social processes that form the basis of human interactions are:



Active or positional aggression





Altruism is one of the most advanced modes of relationships between organisms, because it involves not instantaneous but deferred for some, sometimes indefinite period of time often non-linear and sometimes unconscious reciprocal reward for the donor side from the recipient side. And this means that such relationships require more complex and more multifactorial drivers, such as sociality, choice, trust, planning, patience, deception, the ability to recognize deception, …In general, species that practice altruism have had considerable evolutionary success…One such species includes humans.


Altruism is explained by two main concepts: the Theory of Inclusive Fitness (Adaptation), based on sexual selection and which is genocentric, and the Theory of Reciprocal Altruism, based on natural selection and which is ecologocentric.

The first is the Theory of Inclusive Fitness formulated by William Hamilton in 1964. The essence of this genocentric concept is that evolutionary success depends on the number of one’s genes being promoted by an individual into the future, i.e. on leaving the maximum number of copies of oneself in the population. Moreover, the promotion of one’s genes is possible not only in the direct descendants of an individual, but also in the descendants of close or not so close relatives who carry a number of genes in common with the gene of the individual in question.

Hamilton showed mathematically that because other members of the population may share genes, the gene may also increase its evolutionary success through the indirect contribution of the individual to the reproduction and survival of other individuals who also carry the gene.

Simplified, it looks like this. An individual has a unit of the gene. His direct descendant has ½ the gene of the individual. The individual’s sibling also carries ½ his gene. Accordingly, the direct descendant of the individual’s brother has ¼ of the individual’s gene and ½ of the individual’s own descendant’s gene. Hence, there is equality in genetic value between the direct grandchild of the individual, who carries ¼ of his genes, and his nephew, who carries the same number of his genes. Therefore, a descendant of the individual’s cousin will carry 1/16 of the individual’s genes, which will be equivalent to ⅛ of the individual’s direct descendant’s genes. In other words, a descendant of the individual’s sibling is equal to half of his direct descendant, and a child of a cousin is equal to ⅛ of the individual’s descendant.

As noted above, in terms of the gene, evolutionary success ultimately depends on leaving the maximum number of copies of the self in the population. This is an important reason for the apparent altruism within the population. An individual with conventionally one offspring will be altruistic and caring toward his kin with more offspring.

Certain behaviors can be dictated by genes and therefore can be passed on to future generations, and can be selected as a species trait as the organism develops. Since developed genetic altruism contributes to the development of a population, it will be learned as an important species trait through the process of natural selection.

Natural selection favors organisms that behave in ways that maximize their aggregate fitness. And this means that a gene (or complex of genes) that has copies of itself in others will promote altruistic behavior–helping these “others” survive, thus guaranteeing gene transfer in the population and into the future.

In this regard, Hamilton proposed a rule, or rather, a model-a formula that mathematically describes whether an altruistic behavior gene will spread in a population:

b*r > c


b is the benefit to the recipient-recipient of altruism

c is a cost for the altruistic donor-altruistic initiator

r – the degree of kinship between the actors is higher than with other members of the group

This concept serves as an excellent explanation of how natural selection can perpetuate altruism. If there is an “altruism gene” (or gene complex) that influences an organism’s behavior to be helpful and to protect relatives and their offspring, then this caring behavior also increases the proportion of the altruism gene in the population, because relatives may share genes with the altruist because of common descent. Formally, if such a gene complex occurs, Hamilton’s rule defines selection criteria (in terms of cost, benefit, and kinship) for such a trait to multiply in a population.

Hamilton noted that the Theory of Inclusive Fitness does not itself predict that a species will necessarily develop altruistic behavior, because the opportunity or context for interaction between individuals is a primary condition and its parameters must be positive for social interaction to develop. As Hamilton put it, “altruistic or egoistic actions are possible only when a suitable social object is available and conditions are conducive. In this sense behavior is contingent from the beginning.”

For example, Paul Sherman says that altruistic behavior depends on demography, especially its spatial component of dispersal, its temporal component, and mortality. Only when environmental circumstances affecting demography consistently make such social behavior possible will familism develop. But “nepotism” will not develop among relatives who have not often coexisted in the evolutionary history of a population or species: if the life cycle of an individual usually excludes existence with relatives, that is, if relatives are usually unavailable, the rare coexistence of such relatives will not cause preferential treatment of each other.

For example, cannibalism between relatives in some species indicates that the Theory of Inclusive Accommodation should not be understood simply as predicting that genetically related individuals will inevitably recognize relatives and engage in positive social behavior toward each other. Only in species that have relevant traits in their gene pool and in which individuals routinely interact with genetic relatives under the natural conditions of their evolutionary history can social behavior potentially emerge and develop.

However, if altruistic behavior as a trait is learned and developed in a population, it may gradually spread to members of a group related by lesser kinship to the altruist, and eventually not at all. Richard Dawkins says that if families (genetic relatives) live in groups, this fact provides a useful rule of thumb for selecting objects of altruism: “take care of any person you see often.

Analysis of the behavior of various species, including humans, primates, and other social mammals, suggests that certain social communication cues (e.g., familiarity) are often important mechanisms mediating altruistic behavior, whether or not the participants are actual genetic relatives. Nevertheless, this is evolutionarily stable, since typical conditions act on selection, i.e., on the assimilation of traits.

So, what is clear is that constant communication under conditions of limited dispersal, is an important factor in the development of altruistic behavior based on kinship. In addition, kinship discrimination within a group is an important trigger for altruism. In other words, if an individual feels threatened by unrelated group members, he will try to protect his genes. In this context, we can talk about the threat in general as an important trigger for the triggering of kinship altruism in the population.

An important issue within the concept of kinship altruism is the question of parental care. Some researchers have questioned the idea that parental altruism or, in other words, parental investment (parental care) promotes inclusive fitness in all species. They suggest that “parental care” is due to a genetic configuration or type of adaptation – and these concepts are parallel and independent. For example, some species or populations of spiders and reptiles exhibit parental care, while closely related species and populations lack it. However, there are species whose individuals all show parental care, but the differences between them will be in quantity and quality.

This is due to a genetic configuration in which the gene encoding parental care or the gene encoding its absence is dominant. When a homozygote carries identical alleles of the caring gene, parental caring is high. Also, if the homozygote carries two identical alleles of the indifference gene, there will be no parental care. If the caring gene dominates the indifference gene in the heterozygote, the parents will care for the offspring, albeit in a lighter mode. Parental care will be even less significant if the heterozygote is dominated by the indifference gene over the care gene.

If we talk about parental care as adaptation, Hamilton suggests looking at the increase or decrease of such adaptation through two different life-cycle perspectives. The “from conception” life cycle, where an organism is viewed as a life unit from conception, suggests that if individuals are the offspring of parents with poor care, mortality in the offspring of such poor parents increases, indicating a decrease in the expected adaptability of the offspring and their evolutionary failure – and vice versa.

The “weaning” life cycle, such as weaning or after hatching from eggs – in general, when an organism is viewed as a life unit after emergence – suggests that high mortality after “weaning” means decreased parental fecundity, and thus decreased parental adaptability – and vice versa.

Hamilton argues that adaptability calculated in the cycle “from conception” is personal adaptability, i.e., care for offspring is not a factor in the progression of the species, it is more important to care for oneself, as this will ensure the maximum number of offspring during the lifetime of such an individual. Adaptability, calculated from a “weaning” perspective, is inclusive, because offspring success is an important factor in population and species progradation, and thus it is very important to invest in offspring.

But these distinctions do not depend on whether altruism in parenting is shown to direct offspring or to indirect relatives, such as when aunts and uncles raise their nieces and nephews. In general, the Theory of Inclusive Adaptability was developed to understand altruism in relation to all members of the population, including direct descendants. That is, it is also true of parental care. It all depends on the perspective of the observer.

An important part of the discourse within Inclusive Adaptability Theory is the question of optimal offspring. We remember Hamilton’s rule:

b*r > c, effectively saying that altruistic behavior is possible when kinship is high, that is, the probability of trigger is high “r” and the cost to the altruistic donor “c” is less than the benefit to the recipient-recipient (b). This is a kind of equilibrium in which both parties are happy.

The same model can be represented as follows: (b / c > 1) / r. This means that altruism is possible when the benefit/cost ratio must be greater than one, i.e. it implies that there must be more than one unit of benefit per unit of cost. In other words, a ratio of b / c > 1 means a relative larger value of the benefit compared to the cost.

The whole general model, the possibility of altruism = (b / c > 1) / r, is represented as a ratio of the relative benefit b/c and the degree of relatedness, i.e. how much the benefit is greater depending on relatedness. Note that when the relative benefit b/c = 1 or > 1, the average number of offspring per parent remains constant over time. When b/c <1 or <2, then the average number of offspring per parent increases over time.

Robert Trivers, who is the developer of another concept of altruism, the Reciprocal Altruism Theory, simplified Hamilton’s rule to explain the optimal relationship between parents and offspring:

1c < b/c <2c

Trivers’ model means that the relative benefits (b/c) are greater than the costs (1c) but less than the double costs (2c) because the benefits and costs are quantified from 1 to 2. What does this apparent inequality say about optimal parenting behavior? It means that direct offspring must have genetic similarity, a degree of relatedness r equal to one. But if we are talking about siblings, in reality, as discussed above, the genetic relatedness of the direct offspring to the individual is ½, and the offspring of his siblings is ¼ genetic relatedness to the individual, and ½ to the direct offspring of the individual. This means that the individual should sacrifice 10 grandchildren, the descendants of his children, and get 11 nephews instead. For the individual’s children, on the other hand, in order to justify the loss of 10 of their descendants, 21 nephews must be brought up.

In other words, the parent tries to maximize the number of his grandchildren through direct grandchildren and nephews, while his children try to maximize the number of their own offspring equivalents through their children and nephews. And if the parent is not able to manipulate the actions of his children for his own benefit, then the number of such grandparents with a smaller number of total – direct and indirect – offspring starts to increase in the population.

Trivers once said that if Freud had tried to explain intrafamilial conflict after Hamilton rather than before him, he would have attributed the motivation for the conflict to problems of resource allocation rather than to sexual jealousy, which is essentially just a tool of reproductive competition.


Reciprocal Altruism Theory is a concept that explains altruism as a reciprocal exchange with a momentary cost to the donor and a reciprocal delayed benefit to the donor from the recipient of the benefit. In other words, it is the behavior of two or more individuals when an individual’s actions reduce his or her conformity while increasing the conformity of the other individual in anticipation of reciprocal reciprocity in the future.

The author of this concept, Robert Trivers, originally referred to his theory specifically as Delayed Return Altruism, that is, delayed return actions in his 1987 article “Evolution. Delayed Return Altruism.” However, reviewer W.D. Hamilton suggested the name Reciprocal Altruism. Ronstein and Pierotti developed the concept in 1988 and offered convincing evidence as to why altruism is a positive action with a delayed return.

In general, Trivers based his theory on Hamilton’s concept of relational altruism and his rule, which defines the probability of altruism as a function of the proximity of the two parties and allows for the probability of altruism when proximity is high and the cost to the giver is lower than the benefit to the acquirer. Hamilton’s rule was based on the kinship paradigm, while Trivers proposed it as the basis for altruistic behavior between unrelated members of the population and even at the level of interspecies interaction.

This is close to another concept of mutual behavior Tit for Tat, Tooth for Tooth, introduced by Anatoly Rapoport. However, the concept of Tooth for Tooth implies unconditional repetition of the donor’s actions by the recipient in each subsequent case, regardless of whether the action is aimed at cooperation or conflict. Conventionally speaking, if donor A cooperates, recipient B also cooperates. Then donor A decides to conflict, and recipient B responds in a mirror manner and also moves on to conflict behavior. However, if donor A then decides to cooperate again, recipient B again reciprocates. In Trivers’ concept of Reciprocal Altruism, however, if one side has ceased to cooperate, the other side will no longer cooperate, and cooperation ceases. This distinction leads to the fact that, unlike reciprocal altruism, in the case of the Tooth for Tooth model, cooperation can be resumed under certain conditions, despite its destruction

Christopher Stevens refined Hamilton’s rule as applied to reciprocal altruism between unrelated individuals and members of different species:

a). the altruistic actions of the donor must have a greater cost compared to the selfish actions;

b). the recipient’s benefit must be greater compared to that of any other individual who does not receive such benefits from the donor;

c). the behavior of both participants is not contingent on receiving an immediate benefit and implies the possibility of delayed return;

d). the preceding conditions, a, b, c, must apply to both parties;

e). the number of exchange possibilities should be indefinite;

f). there should be a mechanism to detect “cheating cheaters”.

The first three conditions – a), b), c) – distinguish altruism from mere mutualism – equivalent momentary exchange, the fourth condition – d) – makes altruism reciprocal. Condition e) is necessary to avoid a break in cooperation due to backward induction, when the exchange is not closed and breaks off at the act of giving and not receiving the eventual return benefit, which leads to a refusal of further cooperation on his part. Condition e) is required because otherwise non-altruists can always use altruistic behavior without any consequences, and so the development of reciprocal altruism would be impossible.

It is not always the case that behavior that, on the face of it, can be classed as mutual altruism meets all of Stevens’ conditions. Often such behavior can be attributed to other types of biotic interaction, such as mutualism, comensalism or parasitism. It is worth considering examples of the following models.

Host-cleaner model. In the “master-janitor” system, the benefit to the janitor is always obvious. However, the development of mutual altruism depends on opportunities for future rewards through repeated interactions. A key requirement for establishing mutual altruism is that the parties must constantly interact, otherwise the best strategy for the host is to eat the cleaner as soon as the cleanup is complete. This constraint imposes both spatial and temporal conditions on the cleaner and his host. Both parties must remain in the same physical location, and both parties must have a life long enough for them to have multiple interactions. There is reliable evidence that individual janitors and hosts interact multiple times.

The host allows the janitor to freely “clean at the host”-on him or within him or next to him-and does not destroy the janitor even after the cleaning is complete. The host signals to the janitor that he is about to leave his location, even if the janitor is not nearby. The host sometimes purposefully eliminates possible dangers to the janitor.

There is also a deception recognition mechanism in which cooperation is terminated at the host’s initiative. In one study, a nearby host fish observed cheating cleaners and subsequently avoided them.

The host-cleaner model can be attributed to both mutualism and reciprocal altruism because one party’s actions are upfront, which is not possible in the case of mutualism, where no deferred return is allowed.

The model of the warning signal of danger. Many animals, such as many birds, often emit warning signals, even though this detects the signaler himself and puts him in danger. The concept of mutual altruism, according to Trivers, explains it as follows. Raptors learn certain places and individually specialize in types of prey and methods of hunting. Consequently, it is disadvantageous for a bird to remain silent and allow a predator to eat a congener, because then an experienced predator may be more likely to eat it itself, but later. Taking the risk and warning another bird with a signal of danger is justified for the signaler himself, because it prevents predators from specializing in the sight and location of the signaler and his congeners. Thus, birds in areas where warning signals are given will have a selective advantage over birds in areas where individuals prefer to think only of themselves.

Nevertheless, this model, too, can in some cases be classified as reciprocal altruism conditionally, because it lacks important elements of reciprocity. It is very difficult to detect and punish cheaters. Also, there is no evidence that a bird will refrain from shouting, i.e. stop cooperating when the other bird does not reciprocate, nor is there any evidence that individuals interact constantly. At the same time, all conditions of reciprocal altruism are observed in a number of cases involving social animals, such as meerkats, gophers, etc.

An alternative, egoistic explanation can be given for the behavior of birds issuing warning signals. It consists in the fact that the signals are not warning at all: a bird, having detected a bird of prey, signals that it has been detected and that there is no point in trying to attack the calling bird. Two facts support this hypothesis and are that, firstly, the frequency of the signals corresponds to the hearing range of the bird of prey, and secondly, signalers are less likely to be attacked: birds of prey attack calling birds less often than other birds.

Mutual protection. Many birds, such as the red-winged thrush, help protect their neighbors’ nests. Two theories of altruism, Hamilton’s and Trivers’, explain this differently. In terms of the concept of kin altruism, males help protect nests only to closely related males or to nests where there may be extramarital children of the male, to maximize the genetic expansion of the individual. In terms of mutual ecological altruism, males protect the nests of those males who help protect their own more than others. Longitudinal studies have revealed that the actions of males are not related to the genetic identity of other males or possible children, and the behavior is based on mutual tit-for-tat altruism, where one side mirrors the actions of the other. Specifically, males reduced the amount of protection provided to their neighbors when neighboring males reduced their nest protection, and increased it when protection from the other side increased.

High-cost assistance, or distorted altruism (costs are higher than benefits, b<c). Some species of vampire bats also exhibit reciprocal altruism: they feed each other by regurgitating blood. Since bats feed only on blood and will die after 70 hours of food interruption, this food sharing is a great benefit to the recipient-recipient and a great cost to the donor. For an individual to qualify for reciprocal altruism, the benefit to the individual must be greater than the cost to the donor. This seems to be true, since these bats usually die if they do not find a blood meal two nights in a row. In addition, the data support the condition of altruism, which is that an individual who behaves altruistically in the past receives help from other individuals in the future. However, the consistency of reciprocal behavior, namely that a previously non-altruistic bat is denied help when it requires it, has not been demonstrated. Thus, bats do not yet seem to be an unambiguous example of reciprocal altruism.

Social altruism. This form of behavior is very characteristic of some animals, particularly primates. An individual who willingly grooms other members of the group is more likely to get grooming and other kinds of help from the largest number of individuals in return. However, this kind of altruism leads to deliberate manipulation – the use of altruistic behavior for personal gain, which is also very common in higher primates. Cheating, however, is often unrecognizable and unpunishable because of the cheater’s greater cunning or the social status he has acquired as a result of the cheating.

Symbiotic benefit. This type of altruism is the least close to altruism and the closest to mutualism or symbiosis. It is characteristic, for example, of some bacteria providing essential nutrients for other species, while other species provide the environment for bacterial life. Mutual altruism occurs between nitrogen-fixing bacteria and the plants in which they live. It can also be observed between bacteria and certain species of flies, which consume nutrient extracting bacteria that are on the leaves of plants; in return, they live in the digestive system of the flies. However, this type of interaction is called altruism formally, because of the upfront nature of the exchange. In reality, it is a form of mutualism or symbiotic mutualism, or simply symbiosis – where neither party involved in the exchange can exist without the other.


Subjective altruism (Tolmachev’s conceptual modeling) is a special kind of altruism. In the case of subjective altruism, the donor receives the reverse benefit-benefit of the action itself or the fact of the altruistic action without further return or effort-cost on the part of the receiving-recipient to return. The receiving party-recipient does not return in any way or form the benefit received to the altruistic donor. However, the donor itself may receive a deferred or momentary benefit from the recipient, unrelated to the recipient’s own return actions. In this case, the exchange is considered complete because the donor has received an acceptable return benefit.

Subjective altruism involves a benefit to both parties, but without the subsequent cost of a return from the recipient. In this way, subjective altruism is similar to commensalism in the sense that the receiving party incurs no subsequent cost for the return. Nevertheless, the receiving side, unlike the commensalist side, obviously benefits as well as the donor. From this perspective, subjective altruism is close to mutualism. In general, subjective altruism is a type of intragroup cooperation and, less frequently, interspecies cooperation.

Hamilton’s model, discussed above, has the general rule

Brec > Cdon,

where altruism is possible if the donor’s costs are less than the recipient’s benefits, and conversely, the recipient’s benefits are greater than the donor’s costs. This inequality must be fair to both parties involved.

However, this model can be modified and presented in the form of equality if we accept the nominal condition of obligatory reciprocity (without which cooperation ceases, as we defined earlier) and satisfactory value for the donor of the returned good, i.e. the subsequent equilibrium return of the benefit:

Brec*r > Cdon = Crec < Bdon*r, where

r is the likelihood ratio, which we can modify from the degree of kinship, as originally codified by Hamilton, to some suitable other factor,

Brec is the recipient’s benefit,

Bdon is the reciprocal benefit of the donor,

Cdon is the donor’s cost,

Crec is the recipient’s cost of the return.

In this case, if we take an equal probability ratio of 1 for both parties, we can present the equality:

Brec – Crec = Bdon – Cdon,

provided that Brec > Cdon and Bdon > Crec

If, however, in subjective altruism the obligatory condition is that there is no cost to the recipient (and thus no return on his part), then the model can take the following form:

Brec *r > Cdon < Bdon*r

In subjective altruism the recipient’s costs are 0, then the equality takes the form

Brec = Bdon – Cdon,,

provided that Breck > Cdon <Bdon

And the reciprocal benefit of the donor will be as follows:

Bdon = Brec + Cdon.

Subjective altruism is characteristic of organisms with different cognitive and complex emotional characteristics and is connected mainly with physical and psycho-emotional satisfaction of the donor as motivation for altruistic action. For example, a male chimpanzee helping an old female to peel a banana and having no kinship with her gets obvious pleasure from such an act, which is proved by measurements of activity of corresponding hormones and other physiological indicators, as well as by behavioral analysis of the individual. At the same time, the old female does not render any return services to the male and does not provide him with any material benefits in return, without incurring any costs. Both the old female and the male received obvious benefits – the male got emotional pleasure from the “good deed”, which gives him confidence, reduces or conversely increases competitive or sexual aggression, while the female gets a banana.

Subjective altruism, on the one hand, promotes self-confidence and dominance of the donor and, consequently, increases competitive opportunities and advantages for the continuation of the individual gene. On the other hand, subjective altruism mediates the densification of cooperation and proliferation of relevant traits in the population, which increases the adaptability and competitiveness of the group and population and, consequently, promotes species development.

Subjective altruism is an important factor in population development because the traits spread in the population and are regularly repeated over time are gradually assimilated by the largest number of group members. And tighter cooperation and concerted actions within a population group (of course, up to some limits, where decreasing utility begins and the search for a new competitive equilibrium is necessary) contribute to its adaptability and competitiveness. Reduced intragroup aggression and cooperation certainly serve as active progradation of the group and allow it to be more successful within the population, identifying dominant traits for assimilation, and thus allowing each individual to have a better chance of survival and a genetic future.

One important basis and illustrative example for understanding subjective altruism is the sexual practices of higher primates. Some higher primates, particularly chimpanzees, bonobos, and humans, engage in sex for emotional and physical satisfaction outside the cycle of conception, and this applies to both males and females. In a sexual relationship, often one party can incur high costs while the other party receives the benefits, after which there is no backlash because both parties are satisfied! In fact, both parties benefit, but only one party incurs “active” costs. For example, unilateral oral or any stimulating non-invasive sex between two partners may end with the object of activity orgasm as the recipient of the greatest amount and richness of sexual stimulation, after which – or simultaneously – the giver may also experience orgasm, but without the same abundance and variety of stimulation. At the same time, the donor can experience additional satisfaction and be even more satisfied than his partner from the feeling of control or “gifting” of a close being, which can bring special pleasure to the donor. On the recipient’s side, no reciprocal action is required. Both parties received virtually the same benefits, with the actual costs remaining on one side.

Subjective altruism and the concepts of its explanation may be an important topic for study as a factor in the evolution of humans and other biological species, when psycho-emotional, sexual and other non-material benefits began to acquire a high degree of value, comparable with material benefits. In groups of highly evolved species, subjective altruism can become prevalent, surpassing kinship and environmentalism, which can be reduced to insignificance, such as the blurring of the importance of family (not family!) and the importance of blood kinship in Western society.

In particular, the model of human behavior proposed by economist Deirdre McCloskey in the form of the formula

B = P*S, where

P (Profane) – human-biological

S (Sacred) – human-unbiological,

can be a useful concept to confirm the importance of subjective altruism as a possible variable for the degree of S increasing the importance of S relative to P. That is, the higher the level of subjective altruism, the greater the S. This approach, among others, can be used as a relevant component in explanations of the humanization of Western civilization, inclusiveness, tolerance, ethical development, gender equality, etc., etc.

The growing importance of subjective altruism in the group and species development of some species can be compared to the replacement of old single-component or linear tangible factors of production by new intangible factors and their growing contribution to value creation (for example, the significant prevalence of human capital and innovative incentives as production and value-added factors in technological industries over former linear factors such as labor or capital).

In other words, subjective altruism can be viewed as one component of the multifactorial genesis of human evolution.

In general, subjective altruism fits into general evolutionary conceptions of types of altruistic behavior, supplementing or developing them. The main feature of subjective altruism is the provision of benefits to the recipient and the receipt of a reciprocal benefit without cost to the recipient. In this regard, subjective altruism can be both a sign of high cognitive-emotional development and increasingly complex preferences in intraspecific and interspecific relationships, as well as another type of one of the three basic categories of biotic relationships: cooperation.


Overall, based on the results of the detailed analysis of the concepts of altruistic behavior explanations and their evidence base, we can safely assert that all types of altruism, especially reciprocal altruism, can be codified and described in the economic paradigm: exchange of goods, benefits/costs, lender/borrower, credit period, etc.

altruism, contrary to the common anthropo-moral attitude, is not a gift-the act of providing a good to another individual without expectation of reward.

all nominal kinds of altruism are an economic type of relationship, as they represent an exchange of goods between two parties with a pre-approved advance: a deferred return of the benefit to the donor-altruist from the recipient-recipient side

altruism in all its manifestations is such a relationship between two parties where conditional value added is generated: the benefit to the acquirer-recipient is higher than the producer-donor’s costs, respectively, the producer-donor’s costs are lower than the benefit provided to the recipient-recipient.

Altruism is a more developed type of relationship than direct mutualism, where a more or less one-step exchange is assumed. Altruism presupposes a system of Lender-Borrower relations, that is, the provision of a benefit with a deferred return.

Altruism presupposes a return, that is, a closed transaction. If the transaction is not closed and the recipient does not make the return, the cooperation is terminated at the donor’s initiative. If the benefit returned by the recipient is of less value than that received from the donor, the likelihood of further cooperation is reduced, or the value of the benefit provided and its associated costs on the part of the donor will be less than before.

The longer the deferral of return, the lesser the benefit provided, because a small benefit requires little cost and risk and has little value to return, so the deferral can be long. A larger good requires more costs and risks, and a long deferral may devalue it for the donor; accordingly, the granting of such a good implies a quick return.

The longer the delay in returning the greater good, the greater the value of the returned good must be to satisfy the lender-donor. If the good is not returned with a satisfactory value to the donor creditor, the loan is written off by the donor creditor as an absolute sunk cost, and the relationship with the borrower-recipient is terminated, and further lending – altruistic behavior on the part of the donor – is impossible.

thus, all altruistic relationships can be codified in terms of the economic relationship of the lender-borrower with one or another loan rate depending on the period, the cost of providing the loan, the risk/reliability of the borrower and other factors.

Altruism is characteristic of all group formations. It can be intra-family, intra-group, intraspecies and inter-species.