Joint Discussion Paper Series in Economics 29-2014
Phenomena like meat sharing in hunter-gatherers, altruistic self-sacrifice in intergroup conflicts, and contribution to the production of public goods in laboratory experiments have led to the development of numerous theories trying to explain human prosocial preferences and behavior. Many of these focus on direct and indirect reciprocity, assortment, or (cultural) group selection. Here, I investigate analytically how genetic relatedness changes the incentive structure of that paradigmatic game which is conventionally used to model and experimentally investigate collective action problems: the public goods game. Using data on contemporary hunter-gatherer societies I then estimate a threshold value determining when biological altruism turns into maximizing inclusive fitness in this game. I find that, on average, contributing no less than about 40% of individual fitness to public goods production still is an optimal strategy from an inclusive fitness perspective under plausible socio-ecological conditions.