Research Topic

Parochial Altruism: Pitfalls and Prospects

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A number of recent influential publications have promoted the idea that the high levels of altruism and violent intergroup conflicts observed in humans might be the result of a co-evolution of behavioral traits causing cooperativeness among group members ('in-group love') and spite and aggression between ...

A number of recent influential publications have promoted the idea that the high levels of altruism and violent intergroup conflicts observed in humans might be the result of a co-evolution of behavioral traits causing cooperativeness among group members ('in-group love') and spite and aggression between members of different groups ('out-group hate'). This hypothesis, dating back to Darwin himself, has been dubbed 'parochial altruism'.


While much empirical evidence has been collected which shows that humans readily condition their social behaviors on their conspecifics' group membership, a number of important questions still remain unanswered. These include: Which selective mechanisms are at work in the suggested co-evolution of in-group love and out-group hate … individual selection, kin selection, sexual selection? When and why does altruism become parochial? When and why can parochialism be altruistic? How does parochial altruism fare in comparison to other explanatory approaches to the question of why humans are altruistic and why they are collectively aggressive? Did human (pre-)history really offer the conditions required for parochial altruism to evolve? Is parochial altruism universal across situational contexts and cultures? Which factors can explain individual differences in parochial altruism?


In this Research Topic we would like to bring together current works on the topic: analytical extensions of current theory, empirical studies (archive, lab and field) investigating its applicability and implications (e.g., for economy and society), reviews and critical discussions of its explanatory power. While all contributions to this Research Topic must be in line with the scope of the journal and section they are submitted to, we encourage authors to draw on all disciplines (including, but not limited to, anthropology, biology, economics, and psychology).


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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