Reciprocal Altruism

Reciprocal altruism refers to a concept in biology and social sciences where individuals engage in selfless behavior to benefit others, with the expectation of receiving similar benefits in return. This form of altruism is based on the principle of mutual cooperation and is commonly observed in various species, including humans.

Mutual Assistance and Cooperation

Reciprocal altruism involves individuals providing assistance or support to others without immediate personal gain, with the understanding that they will receive similar help in the future. This mutual cooperation is beneficial for both parties involved, as it fosters trust, cooperation, and improved chances of survival.

Costs and Benefits

Reciprocal altruism involves a cost-benefit analysis wherein individuals weigh the potential costs of helping others against the potential benefits they may receive in return. This assessment helps individuals determine whether engaging in reciprocal altruism is advantageous in terms of increasing their overall fitness.

Tit for Tat Strategy

One common strategy observed in reciprocal altruism is the “tit for tat” strategy. Individuals initially cooperate and help others, and then respond in kind to the behavior they receive. If they encounter cooperation, they continue to cooperate, but if they face betrayal or non-cooperation, they may cease to offer assistance.

Evolutionary Significance

Reciprocal altruism plays a significant role in evolutionary processes as it promotes cooperation and social bonding among individuals. By engaging in reciprocal altruism, individuals increase their own chances of survival and reproduction by relying on the support and assistance of others within their social group or community.


Examples of reciprocal altruism can be seen in various aspects of human and animal behavior. These include sharing resources, providing help during times of need, engaging in reciprocal grooming or cooperative hunting, and even acts of kindness among strangers where reciprocity is expected in social contexts.