A cue of kinship promotes cooperation for the public good

Daniel Brian Krupp, Lisa A. Debruine, Pat Barclay

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119 Citations (Scopus)


Relatedness is a cornerstone of the evolution of social behavior. In the human lineage, the existence of cooperative kin networks was likely a critical stepping stone in the evolution of modem social complexity. Here we report the results of the first experimental manipulation of a putative cue of human kinship (facial self-resemblance) among ostensible players in a variant of the "tragedy of the commons," the one-shot public goods game, in which group-level cooperation-via contributions made to the public good and the punishment of free riders-is supported at a personal cost. In accordance with theoretical predictions, contributions increased as a function of the "kin density" of the group. Moreover, the distribution of punishment was not contingent on kin density level. Our findings indicate that the presence of a subtle cue of genealogical relatedness facilitates group cooperation, supporting the hypothesis that the mechanisms fostering contemporary sociality took root in extended family networks. (C) 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-55
Number of pages7
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number1
Early online date27 Sept 2007
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


  • kinship
  • cooperation
  • public goods
  • tragedy of the commons
  • altruistic punishment
  • facial resemblance
  • evolution
  • relatedness
  • commons
  • reciprocity
  • competition
  • children
  • exchange
  • tragedy


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