Genial genetics: why individuals with similar traits are predisposed to get along
University of Leicester psychologists have potentially explained why co-operation is so common a trait in the natural world.
In a dog-eat-dog world of ruthless competition and ‘survival of the fittest,’ the study suggests that individuals are genetically programmed to work together and cooperate with those who most resemble themselves.
A tendency for similar individuals to cooperate selectively with one another, even if they are not close relatives, can evolve spontaneously in simple organisms.
Using a combination of computer simulation and mathematical analysis, the researchers showed that similarity discrimination evolves quickly and powerfully in many types of social encounters. It evolves spontaneously in populations of organisms who are merely programmed to behave either cooperatively or selfishly, initially at random, and can recognize others who are genetically similar to themselves.
Our School of Psychology's Professor Andrew Colman, Dr Lindsay Browning, and Dr Briony Pulford carried out the study, which appears in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. The research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, can explain why organisms tend to discriminate in favour of others who resemble themselves.
You can hear the academics describing their research on YouTube.
- University Press Release
- Spontaneous similarity discrimination in the evolution of cooperation in the Journal of Theoretical Biology.