Altruism Does it pay to be nice?

Does it pay to be nice?

The mathematics of kindness

If only the fittest survive, how can we explain the evolution of altruism? Mathematics has some answers.

Does it pay to be nice?

Yes, it does. And we have the maths to prove it.

Does it pay to be nice? – the maths of altruism part i

Does it pay to be nice? Yes, it does. And we're not just talking about that warm fuzzy feeling inside, it pays in evolutionary terms of genetic success too. We talk to Martin Nowak about how the mathematics of evolution prove that being nice is unavoidable.

Does it pay to be nice? – the maths of altruism part ii

It does pay to be nice if you repeatedly deal with the same person. Martin Nowak explains why cooperation also wins in matters of reputation, neighbourliness and family. But can evolutionary game theory save the world?

Guilt counts

Guilt, so some people have suggested, is what makes us nice. When we do someone a favour or choose not to exploit someone vulnerable, we do it because we fear the guilt we'd feel otherwise. A team of neuroscientists, psychologists and economists have this month produced some new results in this area, using a model from psychological game theory.

Trust me, I've evolvedGame theorists model the evolution of trust and trustworthiness
Mathematical mysteries: Survival of the nicest?

One of the most puzzling aspects of human behaviour is cooperation, in situations where backstabbing and selfishness would seem to be more rewarding. From the point of view of evolutionary theory, the very existence of altruism and cooperation appear mysterious.

  • Want facts and want them fast? Our Maths in a minute series explores key mathematical concepts in just a few words.