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View Full Version : Reciprocal altruism - what does it mean exactly?


airship
17th Aug 2008, 15:09
I came across the phrase for the first time ever, whilst watching a wildlife programme very late last Friday evening in French. The programme used the phrase to describe and explain the many examples in nature where it's common for individuals to suborn their own desires to reproduce for example, preferring to aid in raising the offspring of a (usually, but not always) more dominant individual/s. At some stage in the programme, there was also a graphic example of a cuckoo chick pushing its' hosts eggs out of the nest...?!

I always thought I understood the meaning of altruism. But I have to admit that I've some difficulty in coming to terms with the combination of altruism and recipocity. Are they not diametrically opposed, isn't combining the 2 words in the same phrase nonsensical...?! :confused:

Do I feed stray cats because I nevertheless hope that they will return the favour someday...?!

Do (especially Europeans) hold on so dearly to their costly social security regimes because they consider them a form of reciprocal altruism...?!

Apparently in nature anyways, reciprocal altruism works because there is almost always a means of control. A means by which repeated offenders who disrespect the principal are identified and then expulsed. Perhaps that is why the French President Sarkozy's govenment has introduced some very strict measures in determining benefits available to the long-term unemployed recently...?!

Whatever, if I rub your back merely because I expect you to rub my own back at some stage 'with interest paid' reciprocally and altruistically said, just where does the altruism begin or the straight-forward and business-like contract end...?!

Are we all being taken for a ride here, by whom and whom does all this altruism ultimately benefit...?! :}

PS. If you're good enough to reply half-seriously to this thread, I'll consider returning the favour to one of your own at some stage in the future...?!

Rossian
17th Aug 2008, 15:22
Arternoon your airship. Maybe - I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine? No?
The Ancient Mariner

Stockpicker
17th Aug 2008, 15:23
I'd read it as "do as you would be done by" - in other words, a selfless act to assist others in the hope that you thereby promote a society in which such behaviour is the norm.

The Real Slim Shady
17th Aug 2008, 15:25
Reciprocal altruism, in it's empirical form, is practised in the UK by the payment to assorted scroats, vast sums of State benefit, both monetary and in kind, thereby allowing the said scroats to nick your belongings, facilitating a claim by you on your insurance, or attacking you, giving you the chance to benefit from the services of the NHS or your BUPA policy.

airship
17th Aug 2008, 15:46
I'd read it as "do as you would be done by" - in other words, a selfless act to assist others in the hope that you thereby promote a society in which such behaviour is the norm. Ah, but Stockpicker, that would be the classical form of altruism, not the reciprocal form, which if indeed is a true form of altruism instead of some bastardisation for unknown purposes, I continue to remain confused by and relatively ignorant of, especially its' origins and benefactors (I think)...

Having said that, I believe I nevertheless detect an important 'reciprocal' element in your post. So, is true altruism dead? Did it ever really exist? And should that be regretted?

Stockpicker
17th Aug 2008, 15:58
"Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends". That has to be the truest form of altruism - there can, by definition, be no benefit to the giver of the gift.

It would therefore follow that true altruism is where there is no thought of benefit to the giver; and reciprocal altruism might therefore be the act "for the greater good" in which there is an instrinsic wish for a benefit, however indirect, for the self?

airship
17th Aug 2008, 16:29
"Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends". That has to be the truest form of altruism - there can, by definition, be no benefit to the giver of the gift. I have to disagree. If the person who lays down his life has even the slightest hope that his example might inspire others, whther or not to similar acts, then there might be some reciprocity involved. In the religious sense, that might mean that whilst say, if Jesus died on the cross to save us all from our sins, the element of reciprocity involved is that we endeavour not to commit any further sins.

I'm becoming even more confused (the Scotch intake can't be helping very much). But I'm beginning to believe that true altruism could never exist (and has never truly existed), if only because it's obviously a noun or adjective (sorry, quit skool at 13) that always needs some qualification. :confused:

PS. If you feed stray pudicats, it's a form of altruism isn't it? But how would you describe it properly? (The other night whilst I was feeding the pudicats, I heard some people passing by within a few metres whilst I had my back to them "Oh look, the man who feeds the cats" said one, not "Hello or good evening, how are you...?!" That's when I finally realised that I'd become some sort of anti-social being (because I'd fallen out of the usually-accepted norms of behaviour). Strangely enough, I belong to their world as well as inhabiting another populated by spirits and pudicats also. Perhaps, he who didn't bother to address me directly had already detected that I was already well on my way from normal to ultra-altruistic or whatever happens when you literally become one with whom you're there to help. Some hedgehogs there as well. :zzz:

SpringHeeledJack
17th Aug 2008, 17:23
If what I experience on a relatively (sadly) oft basis, then there is more reciprocal autism than reciprocal altruism.....:(

Whether tis to do with the dumbing down of society (UK in particular) and/or the sense of entitlement that pervades is hard to say. Without trying to paint oneself as the new Jesus :zzz:, one has always tried to think in terms of the good of those around me and will at least try to offer assistance to others as and when required, be it as small as helping the elderly across the road (even when they wanted to go in the other direction :} ) or just generally being a good citizen without being a creepy do-gooder.

Either people are too consumed with their lives to even notice how they are behaving or they just don't have the ability to be altruistic. As far as I can see there was a lot more helping of others and being helped 'in the old days'. It is perhaps a hardwired part of mammalian brains to act altruistically, but due to conditioning 'we' have misplaced the connection. Animals (at least those not kept as pets) tend not to intellectualize things and act in non-vindictive ways and for the good of themselves and the greater good.

I would like to think that altruism is a sign of highly developed person/being, as the opposite is the hallmark of a young child who can only see the world around them in an ego-centric way and I come across way too many mature, well-educated adults who haven't moved on in their development in this respect.


Amen


SHJ

selfloadingcargo
17th Aug 2008, 17:24
'An example of reciprocal altruism is blood-sharing by the vampire bat, in which bats feed regurgitated blood to those who have not collected much blood themselves knowing that they themselves may someday benefit from this same donation; cheaters are remembered by the colony and ousted from this collaboration.'

The principal of 'reciprocal altruism' has, if you like, a latent penalty clause.

I would argue that this makes it rather LESS altruistic than 'pure' altruism, when the deed is done with no expectation of the recipient behaving in a similar way in similar circumstances. Indeed, as airship originally suggested, some might say that this is scarcely altruism at all. It is, rather, a considered gamble - or perhaps a positive conditional form of tit for tat.

shedhead
17th Aug 2008, 17:42
stockpicker seems to have it right. altruism in its truest form is to perform an act with no thought for personal gain,reciprocal altruism is to do likewise but in the hope that the person (thing,creature.)who gains from that act will also perform a similar act for others, not necessarily for you.In this way societies form, social norms are defined and civilisation occurs.It could be argued that civilisation breaks down and descends into chaos when reciprocal altruism no longer is the norm.there again it could just be down to us being selfish little toerags!

mustpost
17th Aug 2008, 18:08
Ah welcome back - you are the real TRSS, and I claim my 5 squids..

To shamelessly lift from Ripline's Friday joke, in case you ain't seen before


Actually, I suffer from a combination of amnesia and deja vu, but I'm pretty certain that I forgot that one before.....


Added to say


I would like to think that altruism is a sign of highly developed person/being, as the opposite is the hallmark of a young child who can only see the world around them in an ego-centric way and I come across way too many mature, well-educated adults who haven't moved on in their development in this respect.


Springheeledjack : you've been reading other threads/fora/posts on this site haven't you?

SpringHeeledJack
17th Aug 2008, 18:36
Springheeledjack : you've been reading other threads/fora/posts on this site haven't you?

:confused:


Regards


SHJ

goudie
17th Aug 2008, 18:52
Is this the same as making sure everyone gets a 'round' in?

Foss
17th Aug 2008, 18:57
SLC, where did you get that quote about the vampire bats? I don't see how that is altruistic, who ever gave the blood to the vampire bat in the first place didn't have much say in the matter. So it's theft to benefit others really.

Stockpickers is spot on, giving your life is definately a disadvantage to you.

But say you are brought up in a poor area with little prospects. Someone sees some potential in you and gives you an education. Later in life that gesture has enabled you to make your fortune. So, you would like to do the same for others in the area who are now in the same position you were then. So, you pay for education, schooling. Maybe you will help someone as you were helped. Who knows.
So you are behaving the same and believe in the same things as your previous benefactor, hoping it will benefit others, at your disadvantage, time and money.

mustpost
17th Aug 2008, 19:53
Should have made the quote clearer then

the opposite is the hallmark of a young child who can only see the world around them in an ego-centric way and I come across way too many mature, well-educated adults who haven't moved on in their development in this respect.


Rumours and News, Mil etc ring any bells?

frostbite
17th Aug 2008, 20:13
'Great Expectations' provides a good example.

asiaseen
17th Aug 2008, 20:38
Maybe you will help someone as you were helped.

Surely that is sequential altruism, is it not?

trickii
17th Aug 2008, 20:50
Yes… us humans are social animals living in colonies each assuming a roll to add value to the whole. In this case the continuation of the colony’s read this phase as an interpretation of the word altruism and its commentary on naturalistic behaviours. The adoption of these behaviour has lead to survival of this country in times of danger. The intense danger is human behaviour changing to self-survival as default. We can all see the devastating effect this has on our small world whether its global warming, road rage or emergency evacuation of the cabin in an aircraft firer.


I am still baffled by the reference to social benefits in former posts?? Whilst everyone receives handouts from the government as an economic strategy there is no excuse to mieline the disabled, handy capped, Sick, unemployed, elderly or disadvantaged. This reflects poorly on your grasp of economics and societal goals.

In the context of the tragedy today you should ask yourself what you can give to society to make it a better place for our children. Having been in hospital since an attack last November 07 I have appreciated people and value of life much more. Loosing my sight in my early forties, the fight to walk again, and the day to day battle to do what most people think as normal will make anyone re evaluate one’s thinking.

selfloadingcargo
17th Aug 2008, 22:15
Foss...the altruism is on the part of the bat who shares the blood with other bats who haven't collected blood - not on the part of the animal who provided the blood in the first place.

Your example of providing education is an excellent example of the theory of reciprocal altruism.

Foss
17th Aug 2008, 22:17
asiaseen
Fair enough. But I was trying to get across the idea of going back to source. I think it's a close thing though. Difficult definition.