Competition hinders the evolution of altruism amongst kin when beneficiaries gain at the expense of competing relatives. Altruism is consequently deemed to require stronger kin selection, or trait-selected synergies, or elastic population regulation, to counter this effect. Here we contest the view that competition puts any such demands on altruism. In ecologically realistic scenarios, competition influences both altruism and defection. We show how environments that pit defectors against each other allow strong altruism to evolve even in populations with negligible kin structure and no synergies. Competition amongst defectors presents relative advantages to altruism in the simplest games between altruists and defectors, and the most generic models of altruistic phenotypes or genotypes invading non-altruistic populations under inelastic density regulation. Given the widespread inevitability of competition, selection will often favour altruism because its alternatives provide lower fitness. Strong competition amongst defectors nevertheless undermines altruism, by facilitating invasion of unrelated beneficiaries as parasites.
Game theory is based on the assumption that individuals act according to self-interest and make decisions that maximize their personal payoffs. To test this fundamental assumption, we conducted a survey study in the context of influenza vaccination decisions. Contrary to the assumption of self-interest, we found that altruism plays an important role in vaccination decisions. Nevertheless, altruistic motivation has not yet been considered in epidemiological models, in predictions of vaccination decisions or in the design of vaccination policies. To determine the impact of altruism on the adherence to optimal vaccination policies and on resulting disease burden, we incorporated altruism into a game-theoretic epidemiological model of influenza vaccination. We found that altruism significantly shifted vaccination decisions away from individual self-interest and towards the community optimum, greatly reducing the total cost, morbidity and mortality for the community. Therefore, promoting altruism could be a potential strategy to improve public health outcomes.
altruism; influenza; vaccination; game theory; epidemiological model
Hamilton’s (1964) kin-selection theory predicts that altruism will be greater with greater genetic overlap (degree of kinship) between giver and receiver. Kin may be identified in terms of social distance – the closer you feel to someone else, a) the greater your genetic overlap with them should be, and b) the more altruistic you should be toward them. The present experiment determined the amount of their own (hypothetical) monetary reward undergraduates were willing to forgo in order to give $75 to other people at various social distances. We found that a) genetic relationship and b) altruism varied inversely with social distance; the closer you feel toward someone else, the closer their relation to you is likely to be, and the more altruistic you are likely to be toward them. However, even at the same social distance, participants were willing to forgo significantly more money for the benefit of relatives than for the benefit of non-relatives. These results are consistent with kin-selection theory and imply that altruism is determined by factors in addition to social distance.
altruism; kin-recognition; kin-selection; relatedness; social discounting; social distance
Compassion is a key motivator of altruistic behavior, but little is known about individuals’ capacity to cultivate compassion through training. We examined whether compassion may be systematically trained by testing whether (i) short-term compassion training increases altruistic behavior, and (ii) individual differences in altruism are associated with training-induced changes in neural responses to suffering. In healthy young adults, we found that compassion training increased altruistic redistribution of funds to a victim encountered outside of the training context. Furthermore, greater altruistic behavior after compassion training was associated with altered activation in regions implicated in social cognition and emotion regulation, including the inferior parietal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and DLPFC connectivity with the nucleus accumbens. These results suggest that compassion can be cultivated with training, where greater altruistic behavior may emerge from increased engagement in neural systems implicated in understanding the suffering of others, executive and emotional control, and reward processing.
compassion; meditation; altruism; emotion regulation; fMRI
Reciprocal altruism has been the backbone of research on the evolution of altruistic behaviour towards non-kin, but recent research has begun to apply costly signalling theory to this problem. In addition to signalling resources or abilities, public generosity could function as a costly signal of cooperative intent, benefiting altruists in terms of (i) better access to cooperative relationships and (ii) greater cooperation within those relationships. When future interaction partners can choose with whom they wish to interact, this could lead to competition to be more generous than others. Little empirical work has tested for the possible existence of this ‘competitive altruism’. Using a cooperative monetary game with and without opportunities for partner choice and signalling cooperative intent, we show here that people actively compete to be more generous than others when they can benefit from being chosen for cooperative partnerships, and the most generous people are correspondingly chosen more often as cooperative partners. We also found evidence for increased scepticism of altruistic signals when the potential reputational benefits for dishonest signalling were high. Thus, this work supports the hypothesis that public generosity can be a signal of cooperative intent, which people sometimes ‘fake’ when conditions permit it.
competitive altruism; reputation; trust; cooperation; costly signalling
Current work on cooperation is focused on the theory of reciprocal altruism. However, reciprocity is just one way of getting a return on an investment in altruism and is difficult to apply to many examples. Reciprocity theory addresses how animals respond dynamically to others so as to cooperate without being exploited. I discuss how introducing differences in individual generosity together with partner choice into models of reciprocity can lead to an escalation in altruistic behaviour. Individuals may compete for the most altruistic partners and non-altruists may become ostracized. I refer to this phenomenon as competitive altruism and propose that it can represent a move away from the dynamic responsiveness of reciprocity. Altruism may be rewarded in kind, but rewards may be indirectly accrued or may not involve the return of altruism at all, for example if altruists tend to be chosen as mates. This variety makes the idea of competitive altruism relevant to behaviours which cannot be explained by reciprocity. I consider whether altruism might act as a signal of quality, as proposed by the handicap principle. I suggest that altruistic acts could make particularly effective signals because of the inherent benefits to receivers. I consider how reciprocity and competitive altruism are related and how they may be distinguished.
Although altruism is a key principle in our current organ donation and transplantation system, the meanings and implications of the term have been widely debated. Recently, a new type of living organ donation--anonymous and non-directed, also called living altruistic donation (LAD)--has brought the issue into sharper focus. Transplant physicians' views on altruism might influence their attitudes and actions toward living altruistic donors. This study aimed to explore such views among transplant physicians in France and Quebec.
A total of 27 French and 19 Quebec transplant physicians participated in individual, semi-structured interviews between October 2004 and December 2005. The majority of these participants associated altruism with gratuitousness and saw altruistic acts as multiple and varied, ranging from showing consideration to saving a person's life.
The transplant physicians' discourses on altruism were quite diverse, leading us to question the relevance of the concept in organ transplantation and the appropriateness of the term "living altruistic donation."
The conundrum of cooperation has received increasing attention during the last decade. In this quest, the role of altruistic punishment has been identified as a mechanism promoting cooperation. Here we investigate the role of altruistic punishment on the emergence and maintenance of cooperation in structured populations exhibiting connectivity patterns recently identified as key elements of social networks. We do so in the framework of Evolutionary Game Theory, employing the Prisoner's Dilemma and the Stag-Hunt metaphors to model the conflict between individual and collective interests regarding cooperation. We find that the impact of altruistic punishment strongly depends on the ratio q/p between the cost of punishing a defecting partner (q) and the actual punishment incurred by the partner (p). We show that whenever q/p<1, altruistic punishment turns out to be detrimental for cooperation for a wide range of payoff parameters, when compared to the scenario without punishment. The results imply that while locally, the introduction of peer punishment may seem to reduce the chances of free-riding, realistic population structure may drive the population towards the opposite scenario. Hence, structured populations effectively reduce the expected beneficial contribution of punishment to the emergence of cooperation which, if not carefully dosed, may in fact hinder the chances of widespread cooperation.
Altruistic punishment — when a cooperative individual pays a cost to punish her defective partner — has been described as one of the mechanisms that help to explain cooperation's ubiquity in nature. Here, we investigate a model population where individuals interact with each other along the links of a network. The network is built so that it contains the relevant features of real social and biological interaction webs. Individuals engage in cooperation dilemmas with each other and have the possibility to punish defective partners in order to enforce higher cooperation levels. However, it turns out that the introduction of altruistic punishment not always promotes cooperation – in fact, it can actually hinder the spread of cooperation in a variety of cases that we are able to characterize. Effects acting at “micro”, individual level, such as softening the dilemma and reducing the pressure originating from the fear from being cheated and/or the temptation to cheat, can result in lower overall cooperation at a “macro”, population-wide level, due to the complex interference of the social dilemma and the heterogeneous interaction network.
Inclusive fitness theory predicts that natural selection will favour altruist genes that are more accurate in targeting altruism only to copies of themselves. In this paper, we provide evidence from digital evolution in support of this prediction by competing multiple altruist-targeting mechanisms that vary in their accuracy in determining whether a potential target for altruism carries a copy of the altruist gene. We compete altruism-targeting mechanisms based on (i) kinship (kin targeting), (ii) genetic similarity at a level greater than that expected of kin (similarity targeting), and (iii) perfect knowledge of the presence of an altruist gene (green beard targeting). Natural selection always favoured the most accurate targeting mechanism available. Our investigations also revealed that evolution did not increase the altruism level when all green beard altruists used the same phenotypic marker. The green beard altruism levels stably increased only when mutations that changed the altruism level also changed the marker (e.g. beard colour), such that beard colour reliably indicated the altruism level. For kin- and similarity-targeting mechanisms, we found that evolution was able to stably adjust altruism levels. Our results confirm that natural selection favours altruist genes that are increasingly accurate in targeting altruism to only their copies. Our work also emphasizes that the concept of targeting accuracy must include both the presence of an altruist gene and the level of altruism it produces.
kin selection; inclusive fitness; altruism; green beard; digital evolution; Avida
Kin selection theory predicts altruism between related individuals, which requires the ability to recognize kin from non-kin. In insects, kin discrimination associated with altruistic behaviour is well-known in clonal and social species but in very few solitary insects. Here, we report that the solitary larvae of a non-social insect Aleochara bilineata Gyll. (Coleoptera; Staphylinidae) show kin discrimination and sibling-directed altruistic behaviour. Larvae superparasitize more frequently the hosts parasitized by non-kin individuals than those hosts parasitized by siblings. Kin discrimination probably occurs by self-referent phenotype matching, where an individual compares its own phenotype with that of a non-familiar related individual, a mechanism rarely demonstrated in animals. The label used to recognize kin from non-kin corresponds to substances contained in the plug placed on the hosts by the resident larvae during the parasitization process. Kin competition induced by a limited larval dispersion may have favoured the evolution of kin recognition in this solitary species.
kin discrimination; self-referent phenotype matching; green beard effect; Aleochara bilineata; label; superparasitism
In 1964, Hamilton formalized the idea of kin selection to explain the evolution of altruistic behaviours. Since then, numerous examples from a diverse array of taxa have shown that seemingly altruistic actions towards close relatives are a common phenomenon. Although many species use kin recognition to direct altruistic behaviours preferentially towards relatives, this important aspect of social biology is less well understood theoretically. I extend Hamilton's classic work by defining the conditions for the evolution of kin-directed altruism when recognizers are permitted to make acceptance (type I) and rejection (type II) errors in the identification of social partners with respect to kinship. The effect of errors in recognition on the evolution of kin-directed altruism depends on whether the population initially consists of unconditional altruists or non-altruists (i.e. alternative forms of non-recognizers). Factors affecting the level of these error rates themselves, their evolution and their long-term stability are discussed.
Several recent models have shown that altruism can spread in viscous populations, i.e. in spatially structured populations within which individuals interact only with their immediate neighbours and disperse only over short distances. I first confirm this result with an individual-based model of a viscous population, where an individual can vary its level of investment into a behaviour that is beneficial to its neighbours but costly to itself. Two distinct classes of individuals emerge: egoists with no or very little investment into altruism, and altruists with a high level of investment; intermediate levels of altruism are not maintained. I then extend the model to investigate the consequences of letting interaction and dispersal distances evolve along with altruism. Altruists maintain short distances, while the egoists respond to the spread of altruism by increasing their interaction and dispersal distances. This allows the egoistic individuals to be maintained in the population at a high frequency. Furthermore, the coevolution of investment into altruism and interaction distance can lead to a stable spatial pattern, where stripes of altruists (with local interactions) alternate with stripes of egoists (with far-reaching interactions). Perhaps most importantly, this approach shows that the ease with which altruism spreads in viscous populations is maintained despite countermeasures evolved by egoists.
The evolutionary origin of strong altruism (where the altruist pays an absolute cost in terms of fitness) towards non-kin has never been satisfactorily explained since no mechanism (except genetic drift) seems to be able to overcome the fitness disadvantage of the individual who practiced altruism in the first place.
Here we consider a multilocus, single-generation random group model and demonstrate that with low, but realistic levels of recombination and social heterosis (selecting for allelic diversity within groups) altruism can evolve without invoking kin selection, because sampling effects in the formation of temporary groups and selection for complementary haplotypes generate nonrandom associations between alleles at polymorphic loci.
By letting altruism get off the ground, selection on other genes favourably interferes with the eventual fate of the altruistic trait due to genetic hitchhiking.
Recent research on kin investment shows a matrilateral bias as a function of paternity uncertainty. Kin investment, however, is a special case of kin altruism. We thus hypothesize that psychological adaptations have evolved to regulate cousin-directed altruism according to predictably variable levels of paternity uncertainty in different categories of cousins. We develop a formal mathematical model that predicts that individuals should be most willing to act altruistically towards their mother's sister's (MoSis) children and least willing to act altruistically towards their father's brother's (FaBro) children. Altruism towards father's sister's (FaSis) and mother's brother's (MoBro) children are predicted to fall in between. An empirical study (N=195), assessing expressed altruistic proclivities, confirmed the predictions from the model. Participants expressed willingness-to-help following the descending order: (i) MoSis children, (ii) MoBro children, (iii) FaSis children, and (iv) FaBro children. The psychological variables of emotional closeness, empathic concern and contact frequency showed precisely the same pattern across distinct cousins, providing convergent confirmation of the model. The results support the hypothesis of cousin-specific adaptations sensitive to varying probabilities of paternity uncertainty.
paternity uncertainty; kin altruism; cousin; psychological adaptation; kin selection
Altruistic behavior is defined as helping others at a cost to oneself and a lowered fitness. The lower fitness implies that altruists should be selected against, which is in contradiction with their widespread presence is nature. Present models of selection for altruism (kin or multilevel) show that altruistic behaviors can have ‘hidden’ advantages if the ‘common good’ produced by altruists is restricted to some related or unrelated groups. These models are mostly deterministic, or assume a frequency dependent fitness.
Evolutionary dynamics is a competition between deterministic selection pressure and stochastic events due to random sampling from one generation to the next. We show here that an altruistic allele extending the carrying capacity of the habitat can win by increasing the random drift of “selfish” alleles. In other terms, the fixation probability of altruistic genes can be higher than those of a selfish ones, even though altruists have a smaller fitness. Moreover when populations are geographically structured, the altruists advantage can be highly amplified and the fixation probability of selfish genes can tend toward zero. The above results are obtained both by numerical and analytical calculations. Analytical results are obtained in the limit of large populations.
The theory we present does not involve kin or multilevel selection, but is based on the existence of random drift in variable size populations. The model is a generalization of the original Fisher-Wright and Moran models where the carrying capacity depends on the number of altruists.
Frequency independent fitness; Genetic drif; Fixation probabilities; Non-structured populations
Cooperation among genetically unrelated individuals is commonly explained by the potential for future reciprocity or by the risk of being punished by group members. However, unconditional altruism is more difficult to explain. We demonstrate that unconditional altruism can evolve as a costly signal of individual quality (i.e. a handicap) as a consequence of reciprocal altruism. This is because the emergent correlation between altruism and individual quality in reciprocity games can facilitate the use of altruism as a quality indicator in a much wider context, outside the reciprocity game, thus affecting its further evolution through signalling benefits. Our model, based on multitype evolutionary game theory shows that, when the additive signalling benefit of donating help exceeds the cost for only some individuals (of high-quality state) but not for others (of low-quality state), the population possesses an evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) profile wherein high-quality individuals cooperate unconditionally while low-quality individuals defect or play tit-for-tat (TfT). Hence, as predicted by Zahavi's handicap model, signalling benefits of altruistic acts can establish a stable generosity by high-quality individuals that no longer depends on the probability of future reciprocation or punishment.
Altruism and selfishness are 30–50% heritable in man in both Western and non-Western populations. This genetically based variation in altruism and selfishness requires explanation. In non-human animals, altruism is generally directed towards relatives, and satisfies the condition known as Hamilton's rule. This nepotistic altruism evolves under natural selection only if the ratio of the benefit of receiving help to the cost of giving it exceeds a value that depends on the relatedness of the individuals involved. Standard analyses assume that the benefit provided by each individual is the same but it is plausible in some cases that as more individuals contribute, help is subject to diminishing returns. We analyse this situation using a single-locus two-allele model of selection in a diploid population with the altruistic allele dominant to the selfish allele. The analysis requires calculation of the relationship between the fitnesses of the genotypes and the frequencies of the genes. The fitnesses vary not only with the genotype of the individual but also with the distribution of phenotypes amongst the sibs of the individual and this depends on the genotypes of his parents. These calculations are not possible by direct fitness or ESS methods but are possible using population genetics. Our analysis shows that diminishing returns change the operation of natural selection and the outcome can now be a stable equilibrium between altruistic and selfish alleles rather than the elimination of one allele or the other. We thus provide a plausible genetic model of kin selection that leads to the stable coexistence in the same population of both altruistic and selfish individuals. This may explain reported genetic variation in altruism in man.
altruism; selfishness; kin selection; polymorphism; heritability
In eusocial organisms, some individuals specialize in reproduction and others in altruistic helping. The evolution of eusociality is, therefore, also the evolution of remarkable inequality. For example, a colony of honeybees (Apis mellifera) may contain 50 000 females all of whom can lay eggs. But 100 per cent of the females and 99.9 per cent of the males are offspring of the queen. How did such extremes evolve? Phylogenetic analyses show that high relatedness was almost certainly necessary for the origin of eusociality. However, even the highest family levels of kinship are insufficient to cause the extreme inequality seen in e.g. honeybees via ‘voluntary altruism’. ‘Enforced altruism’ is needed, i.e. social pressures that deter individuals from attempting to reproduce. Coercion acts at two stages in an individual's life cycle. Queens are typically larger so larvae can be coerced into developing into workers by being given less food. Workers are coerced into working by ‘policing’, in which workers or the queen eat worker-laid eggs or aggress fertile workers. In some cases, individuals rebel, such as when stingless bee larvae develop into dwarf queens. The incentive to rebel is strong as an individual is the most closely related to its own offspring. However, because individuals gain inclusive fitness by rearing relatives, there is also a strong incentive to ‘acquiesce’ to social coercion. In a queenright honeybee colony, the policing of worker-laid eggs is very effective, which results in most workers working instead of attempting to reproduce. Thus, extreme altruism is due to both kinship and coercion. Altruism is frequently seen as a Darwinian puzzle but was not a puzzle that troubled Darwin. Darwin saw his difficulty in explaining how individuals that did not reproduce could evolve, given that natural selection was based on the accumulation of small heritable changes. The recognition that altruism is an evolutionary puzzle, and the solution was to wait another 100 years for William Hamilton.
eusociality; worker policing; inclusive fitness theory; voluntary altruism; enforced altruism; acquiescence
Altruistic behaviour varies across human populations and this variation is likely to be partly explained by variation in the ecological context of the populations. We hypothesise that area level socio-economic characteristics will determine the levels of altruism found in individuals living in an area and we use a lost letter experiment to measure altruism across 20 neighbourhoods with a wide range of income deprivation scores in London, UK. The results show a strong negative effect of neighbourhood income deprivation on altruistic behaviour, with letters dropped in the poorest neighbourhoods having 91% lower odds of being returned than letters dropped in the wealthiest neighbourhoods. We suggest that measures of altruism are strongly context dependant.
Darwin never provided a satisfactory account of altruism, but posed the problem beautifully in light of the logic of natural selection. Hamilton and Williams delivered the necessary satisfaction by appealing to kinship, and Trivers showed that kinship was not necessary as long as the originally altruistic act was conditionally reciprocated. From the late 1970s to the present, the kinship theories in particular have been supported by considerable empirical data and elaborated to explore a number of other social interactions such as cooperation, selfishness and punishment, giving us what is now a rich description of the nature of social relationships among organisms. There are, however, two forms of theoretically possible social interactions—reciprocity and spite—that appear absent or nearly so in non-human vertebrates, despite considerable research efforts on a wide diversity of species. We suggest that the rather weak comparative evidence for these interactions is predicted once we consider the requisite socioecological pressures and psychological mechanisms. That is, a consideration of ultimate demands and proximate prerequisites leads to the prediction that reciprocity and spite should be rare in non-human animals, and common in humans. In particular, reciprocity and spite evolved in humans because of adaptive demands on cooperation among unrelated individuals living in large groups, and the integrative capacities of inequity detection, future-oriented decision-making and inhibitory control.
reciprocal altruism; spite; ultimate pressures; proximal constraints
In recent years, extended altruism towards unrelated group members has been proposed to be a unique characteristic of human societies. Support for this proposal seemingly came from experimental studies on captive chimpanzees that showed that individuals were limited in the ways they shared or cooperated with others. This dichotomy between humans and chimpanzees was proposed to indicate an important difference between the two species, and one study concluded that “chimpanzees are indifferent to the welfare of unrelated group members”. In strong contrast with these captive studies, consistent observations of potentially altruistic behaviors in different populations of wild chimpanzees have been reported in such different domains as food sharing, regular use of coalitions, cooperative hunting and border patrolling. This begs the question of what socio-ecological factors favor the evolution of altruism. Here we report 18 cases of adoption, a highly costly behavior, of orphaned youngsters by group members in Taï forest chimpanzees. Half of the adoptions were done by males and remarkably only one of these proved to be the father. Such adoptions by adults can last for years and thus imply extensive care towards the orphans. These observations reveal that, under the appropriate socio-ecologic conditions, chimpanzees do care for the welfare of other unrelated group members and that altruism is more extensive in wild populations than was suggested by captive studies.
The origin of altruism remains one of the most enduring puzzles of human behaviour. Indeed, true altruism is often thought either not to exist, or to arise merely as a miscalculation of otherwise selfish behaviour. In this paper, we argue that altruism emerges directly from the way in which distinct human decision-making systems learn about rewards. Using insights provided by neurobiological accounts of human decision-making, we suggest that reinforcement learning in game-theoretic social interactions (habitisation over either individuals or games) and observational learning (either imitative of inference based) lead to altruistic behaviour. This arises not only as a result of computational efficiency in the face of processing complexity, but as a direct consequence of optimal inference in the face of uncertainty. Critically, we argue that the fact that evolutionary pressure acts not over the object of learning (‘what’ is learned), but over the learning systems themselves (‘how’ things are learned), enables the evolution of altruism despite the direct threat posed by free-riders.
reinforcement learning; altruism; evolution; neuroeconomics; strong reciprocity; theory of mind; free-rider problem
Reproductive altruism is an extreme form of altruism best typified by sterile castes in social insects and somatic cells in multicellular organisms. Although reproductive altruism is central to the evolution of multicellularity and eusociality, the mechanistic basis for the evolution of this behaviour is yet to be deciphered. Here, we report that the gene responsible for the permanent suppression of reproduction in the somatic cells of the multicellular green alga, Volvox carteri, evolved from a gene that in its unicellular relative, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, is part of the general acclimation response to various environmental stress factors, which includes the temporary suppression of reproduction. Furthermore, we propose a model for the evolution of soma, in which by simulating the acclimation signal (i.e. a change in cellular redox status) in a developmental rather than environmental context, responses beneficial to a unicellular individual can be co-opted into an altruistic behaviour at the group level. The co-option of environmentally induced responses for reproductive altruism can contribute to the stability of this behaviour, as the loss of such responses would be costly for the individual. This hypothesis also predicts that temporally varying environments, which will select for more efficient acclimation responses, are likely to be more conducive to the evolution of reproductive altruism.
reproductive altruism; evolution; acclimation; Volvox; Chlamydomonas; soma
Evolution of altruistic behaviour in interacting individuals is accounted for by, for example, kin selection, direct reciprocity, spatially limited interaction and indirect reciprocity. Real social agents, particularly humans, often take actions based on similarity between themselves and others. Although tag-based indirect reciprocity in which altruism occurs exclusively among similar flocks is a natural expectation, its mechanism has not really been established. We propose a model of tag-based indirect reciprocity by assuming that each player may note strategies of others. We show that tag-based altruism can evolve to eradicate other strategies, including unconditional defectors for various initial strategy configurations and parameter sets. A prerequisite for altruism is that the strategy is sometimes, but not always, visible to others. Without visibility of strategies, policing does not take place and defection is optimal. With perfect visibility, what a player does is always witnessed by others and cooperation is optimal. In the intermediate regime, discriminators based on tag proximity, rather than mixture of generous players and defectors, are most likely to evolve. In this situation, altruism is realized based on homophily in which players are exclusively good to similar others.
altruism; evolutionary game; indirect reciprocity; homophily
The theory of inclusive fitness has transformed our understanding of cooperation and altruism. However, the proximate psychological underpinnings of altruism are less well understood, and it has been argued that emotional closeness mediates the relationship between genetic relatedness and altruism. In this study, we use a real-life costly behaviour (travel time) to dissociate the effects of genetic relatedness from emotional closeness. Participants travelled further to see more closely related kin, as compared to more distantly related kin. For distantly related kin, the level of emotional closeness mediated this relationship - when emotional closeness was controlled for, there was no effect of genetic relatedness on travel time. However, participants were willing to travel further to visit parents, children and siblings as compared to more distantly related kin, even when emotional closeness was controlled for. This suggests that the mediating effect of emotional closeness on altruism varies with levels of genetic relatedness.