Altruism

Be excellent to one another

Frans de Waal, director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, believes that it's just as natural to be nice as it is be mean. Man may be wolf to man, as the old saying has it, but de Waal points out with casual eloquence in The Age of Empathy that wolves are often... Slate.

What goes around...

The latest research on altruism in apes may not be as surprising as the selfless rats in the previous post--because, of course, chimpanzees and humans are much more closely related--but it's all good, solid evidence that sharing can be as sensible an evolutionary move as selfishness, even if these chimpanzees reported in PLoS do it with non-family members. The same researchers show that both human infants and chimpanzee young will help without expecting a reward. BBC.


Rats depend on the kindness of strangers, well, strange rats

Giving help to a stranger without expecting anything in return is supposed to be a problem for evolution--if this kind of altruism doesn't help your family and it has no immediate reward, surely it costs the individual animal too much to bother? We know humans do it, but it's thought our behavior is shaped more by culture than biology. It turns out that rats pay it forward too. Researchers have shown that a rat who experiences a random act of kindness is more likely than a rat who hasn't to help a strange rat get food--even when it will get none itself. Science Daily, PLoS.