Paper Example on Parochial Altruism & Intergroup Conflict

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1775 Words
Date:  2022-05-12


Cooperation and maintenance of social order which is the most fundamental aspect of the human evolution has been brought about by social norms and altruistic behaviors. These have played a pivotal role in the shaping of the family life, politics, and even economic interactions within the human race. However, since the enforcement of the social norms and altruistic compliance may give rise to intergroup conflicts, they are likely to be shaped by parochialism. A tendency to favor the group that one belongs to, ethnically, racially or otherwise, while attempting to disregard, disintegrate or even harm the rivaling group (Bernhard, Fischbacher and Ernst2006, p.912).This essay,thereforeattempts to demystify what brings about parochial altruism and the role it plays in the intergroup conflict. The essay also attempts to bring out the various factors that contribute to parochial altruism and their effect, while at the same time brings out the various evolutionary advancement brought about by this phenomenon.

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Throughout history, inter-group hostilities have been recorded to have shaped the social behaviors of the human race. Bowles (2009, p.1293) explains that those groups with individuals who are courageous, faithful and committed to warning each other of the underlying risks and dangers tend to conquer and be victorious over other tribes. Evidence of parochial altruism were recorded in an experiment conducted in Papua New Guinea where members of the Wolimbka and nearby Ngenika groups, in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea,

Had no recent history of violence. When asked to divide a pot of money between themselves and another, they gave more and kept less for themselves if the other is a member of their group rather than an outsider (Bowles 2008, p.326).

Similarly, in another experiment known as the 'punishment experiment' conducted with indigenous groupsin Papua New Guinea whereby impartial observers were required to punish norm violators. The results were that punishers tended to protect members of their group who suffer from a norm violation more than those victims from another group, regardless of the norm violator's group affiliations. Furthermore, norm violators expected to be treated more favorably from punishers who belong to their group as opposed to those who belong to another social group (Bernhard, Fischbacher and Ernst 2006, p.912). Bowles (2008, p.326) in his experiment on warfare amongst ancestral hunters and gatherers also found that warfare played a great role in the evolution of human altruistic behaviors. Both altruistic and parochial behaviors have a handicap in the human evolutionary process (Bowles 2008, p.326). Bowles (2008, p.326) in his findings, shows that Altruism and parochialism plays a greater role in reducing fitness or material well-being of an individual compared with what that individual would have otherwise gained were he or she to eschew these behaviors. Throughout human history, parochial altruists may have provoked conflicts between groups over scarce natural and reproductive resources, and at the same time contributed to a group's success in these conflicts (Ernst & Fischbacher 2003).

Also throughout the history of human race parochial altruism has brought about fierce competition among human beings resulting in conflicts of unimaginable proportions whereby deaths of millions of people have resulted. This has been brought about by the technological advancements made throughout the years, leading to the development of sophisticated weapons to be used against each other (Bowles 2009). Bowles (2008, p.326) further exclaims thatparochialism and altruism needs to function synergistically together.This is due to the fact that, as winning groups gained territory, an increase in reproductive, political and cultural influence overcame the disadvantages of parochialism and altruism when occurring separately. When winners and losers differed significantly in their genes or cultural practices, the effects of this kind of conflict are more profound on the intergroup interactions more pronounced in their family, political and economic interactions between the competing groups. This played a pivotal role in the evolution of the human social behaviors.

Warfare played a central role in the evolution of man's social behavior. A study by Bowles (2009) found out that, the war brought about social and moral qualities. Groups whose members exhibit superior altruistic characteristics are better poised to survive during a war as compared to a group with members with inferior altruistic tendencies.

Moreover, Bowles(2008, p.327) in his findings derived that parochial altruism was the genesis of the establishment of the modern day institutions such as tax compliance, respect to private property and the rule of law. These institutions played very critical roles in ensuring the survival of the human race throughout history. Patriarchal altruism tends to limit an individual's abilities and aspirations, as they are more focused on the greater good of the group much to the detriment of oneself. A study of the foraging Ache people in Paraguay found out that they shared foods such as meat and honey equally among group members, irrespective of who originally acquired them (Bowles 2008, p.327). The findings went to great lengths to conclude that several measures were put to discouragewithin-group competition, hence limiting individual members of the group. This practice also encourages laxity among members of the group.

Several contrasts have been made by Carsten about the findings made above. Using incentivized Intergroup Prisoner's Dilemma Maximizing Differences Game with 95subjects classified as either pro-social or pro-self randomly allocated to high vs. low impulse-control conditions. The findings were, that individuals in advanced and well-functioning groups are more likely to prosper, survive and reproduce as compared to individuals who lack such groupings (De Dreu, Dusell and Ten Velden 2015).Furthermore, due to this fact, human beingscanassess themselves to align themselves with the kind of group that will suit their needs or which they are best suited. Also, these individuals upon identification of a group are able to trust, commit and be loyal to members of one's group that enabling the group function better and thus enabling the member to have more chances of survival (De Dreu, Dusell and Ten Velden 2015).

As emphasized by De Dreu, Dusell and Ten Velden (2015), a group naturally exists next to other groupings with whom they, cooperate, compete and compare. Due to this fact groups that function productively tend to have the edge over the rest of the groups when it comes to competition for the available resources.This significantly contributed to the positive evolution of the human social behavior enabling them to accomplish tremendous milestones throughout history.According to De Dreu, Dusell and Ten Velden (as cited by Aaldering et al 2013), individuals with a strong patriarchal altruism are more oriented towards helping the group achieve its objectives as compared to individuals who are self-centered. It shows that patriarchal altruism has contributed positively toward the advancement of the human race over the years.

Furthermore, De Dreu, Dusell and Ten Velden (2015) found out that selfishness tends to be slower while selflessness tends to be more intuitive, consequently, contributing a positive evolution of human race social culture. Secondly, conflicts only arise when there is an out-group, thus in the absence of these groups, the group tends to run smoothly as each member focused on the enhancement of the particular group. Furthermore, as stated by De Dreu, Dusell and Ten Velden (as cited by Balliet et al.2014), it was found that the drive to serve the purpose of one's grouping is stronger than the one to hurt the outer-grouping. The discovery showed that patriarchal altruism when positively cultivated can bring substantial positive effects in the human race. This will ensure that different groupings coexist in a peaceful manner, thus ensuring a peaceful society in the long run. According to De Dreu, Dusell and Ten Velden (as cited by Buttelmann 2014), it is important to be alive to the fact not all individuals will be supportive of this fact, and thus more effective ways should be developed to deal with such occurrences. De Dreu, Dusell and, Ten Velden (as cited by Buttelmann 2014) further concluded that, it is important to be alive to the fact not all individuals will be supportive of this fact, and thus more effective ways should be developed to deal with such occurrences.

Equally, during the experiments conducted, they found that, with the introduction of incentives parochialism altruism phenomena is more pronounced when mount contributed to the within-group pool reflects "in-group cooperation, while the amount between group pools reflected parochial altruism (De Dreu, Dusell and Ten Velden 2015). The findings clearly show that parochial altruism plays a major role in the enhancement of the group that the individual belongs to, consequently each member is able to benefit. De Dreu, Dusell and Ten Velden (2015), also found out that parochial altruism was a result of self-sacrifice among individual member in a group as opposed to calculated.


In conclusion, while we now know a lot about human parochialism and altruism than we did previously, there is still a lot of questions remain unanswered. Fehr, Ernst and, Fischbacher (2003) in the research they conducted found out that, there is experimental evidence indicating that repeated interactions, reputation-formation, and strong reciprocity arepowerful determinants of human behavior. Fehr, Ernst and, Fischbacher (2003) reiterate that there are formal models that capture various interactions between selfish and strongly altruistic individuals, and there is a much betterunderstanding about the nature of the evolutionary experiences thatprobably shaped human altruism. Fehr, Ernst and, Fischbacher (2003) conclude that, though there is evidence to show that cooperation market integration is a major factor to be considered in this findings, there is still need for researchers to expand the scope of the study not only in developed nation, but also in developing countries and the entire world. This will enable the study of a wide range of people from different cultures, political formations and, economic status, thus producing accurate results which are more informative (Fehr, Ernst and Fischbacher2003). Also, there are a lot of open questions that remain unanswered with regards to the complicated evolution of the human interactions. De Dreu, Dusell and Ten Velden (2015) recommended for new research mapping situations ranging from the inter-group competition being totally absent to being predominantly present, to further understand when and why human cooperation evolved into an automated, intuitive response that is released rather than blocked by impeded impulse-control. This provides an opportunity for further research and experiments be conducted so as to clearly and precisely answer these questions. Thus, allowing for bettering interaction between human kinds, which ensures peaceful coexistence and family, economic, and political prosperity among future generation. Similarly, it opens up avenues for understanding and coming with new ways of fostering cooperation between different groups in different social, economic and political ladder of the society. Understanding the concept will, therefore, enable enormous advancements in trade, diplomacy, innovation and thus able to foster peaceful coexistence among the community of nations in the universe.


Aaldering, H., Greer, L. L., Van Kleef, G. A...

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