Variable valuations and voluntarism under group selection: An evolutionary public goods game

Philip H. Crowley, Kyung Hwan Baik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


In biological systems, as in human society, competing social groups may depend heavily on a small number of volunteers to advance the group's prospects. This phenomenon can be understood as the solution to an evolutionary public goods game, in which a beneficent individual or a small number of individuals may place the highest value on group success and contribute the most to achieving it while profiting very little. Here we demonstrate that this type of solution, recently recognized in the social sciences, is evolutionarily stable and evolves in evolutionary simulations sensitive to alternative ways of gaining fitness beyond the present social group. The public goods mechanism may help explain biological voluntarism in cases like predator inspection and foraging on behalf of non-relatives and may determine the extent of commitment to group welfare at different intensities of group selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-244
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • ESS
  • Game theory
  • Nash equilibria
  • Pleiometrosis
  • Predator inspection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


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