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Altruism and Attraction- Does being selfless make us more attractive?

01 November 2010

Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s and Nottingham University found a possible link between altruistic behaviour and sexual attraction.

Selfless or altruistic behaviour appears to be at odds with an underlying principle of natural selection which predicts rigorous competition between individuals - and, particularly, competition to transfer genes into future generations.

Although altruism towards relatives can be explained where it benefits the genes they share in common, altruism towards non-relatives remains one of the major unresolved puzzles of modern biology.

In this study the researchers examined a relatively unexplored hypothesis put forward to explain this evolutionary puzzle - whether human altruism towards non-relatives evolved as a result of sexual selection. This hypothesis depends on genes influencing both the mate preference (and degree of attraction towards a particular trait in a potential mate) and the preferred trait itself.

Identical and non-identical twins were asked to complete two psychometric scales designed to measure mate preference towards altruistic traits and their reported altruistic behaviour.

Dr Fruhling Rijsdijk, a Senior Lecturer at the IoP, said: 'As a result of this twin study the researchers found not only genetic influence acting on the mate preference and preferred trait but also a genetic correlation between the two.'

These exciting results are therefore consistent with the hypothesised link between human altruism and sexual selection and throw promising new light on this evolutionary puzzle.

‘A link between altruism and sexual selection: Genetic influence on altruistic behaviour and mate preference towards it’ is published in the November edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry.  To read the paper in full, please follow the link:



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