The evolution of fairness through spite

Patrick Forber, Rory Smead

Abstract

The presence of apparently irrational fair play in the ultimatum game remains a focal point for studies in the evolution of social behaviour. We investigate the role of negative assortment in the evolution of fair play in the ultimatum game. Spite—social behaviour that inflicts harm with no direct benefit to the actor—can evolve when it is disproportionally directed at individuals playing different strategies. The introduction of negative assortment alters the dynamics in a way that increases the chance fairness evolves, but at a cost: spite also evolves. Fairness is usually linked to cooperation and prosocial behaviour, but this study shows that it may have evolutionary links to harmful antisocial behaviour.

  • Received September 17, 2013.
  • Accepted January 15, 2014.
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