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Sociobiology is a field of biology that aims to examine and explain social behavior in terms of evolution. It draws from disciplines including psychology, ethology, anthropology, evolution, zoology, archaeology, and population genetics. Within the study of human societies, sociobiology is closely allied to evolutionary anthropology, human behavioral ecology and evolutionary psychology.[1]

Sociobiology investigates social behaviors such as mating patterns, territorial fights, pack hunting, and the hive society of social insects. It argues that just as selection pressure led to animals evolving useful ways of interacting with the natural environment, so also it led to the genetic evolution of advantageous social behavior.[2]

While the term "sociobiology" originated at least as early as the 1940s, the concept did not gain major recognition until the publication of E. O. Wilson's book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis in 1975. The new field quickly became the subject of controversy. Critics, led by Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, argued that genes played a role in human behavior, but that traits such as aggressiveness could be explained by social environment rather than by biology. Sociobiologists responded by pointing to the complex relationship between nature and nurture.

Nikolaas Tinbergen, whose work influenced sociobiology

Sociobiology is based upon two fundamental premises:

Sociobiology uses Nikolaas Tinbergen's four categories of questions and explanations of animal behavior. Two categories are at the species level; two, at the individual level. The species-level categories (often called "ultimate explanations") are

The individual-level categories (often called "proximate explanations") are

Sociobiologists are interested in how behavior can be explained logically as a result of selective pressures in the history of a species. Thus, they are often interested in instinctive, or intuitive behavior, and in explaining the similarities, rather than the differences, between cultures. For example, mothers within many species of mammals – including humans – are very protective of their offspring. Sociobiologists reason that this protective behavior likely evolved over time because it helped the offspring of the individuals which had the characteristic to survive. This parental protection would increase in frequency in the population. The social behavior is believed to have evolved in a fashion similar to other types of nonbehavioral adaptations, such as a coat of fur, or the sense of smell.

Individual genetic advantage fails to explain certain social behaviors as a result of gene-centred selection. E.O. Wilson argued that evolution may also act upon groups.[13] The mechanisms responsible for group selection employ paradigms and population statistics borrowed from evolutionary game theory. Altruism is defined as "a concern for the welfare of others". If altruism is genetically determined, then altruistic individuals must reproduce their own altruistic genetic traits for altruism to survive, but when altruists lavish their resources on non-altruists at the expense of their own kind, the altruists tend to die out and the others tend to increase. An extreme example is a soldier losing his life trying to help a fellow soldier. This example raises the question of how altruistic genes can be passed on if this soldier dies without having any children.[14]

Within sociobiology, a social behavior is first explained as a sociobiological hypothesis by finding an evolutionarily stable strategy that matc

Sociobiology investigates social behaviors such as mating patterns, territorial fights, pack hunting, and the hive society of social insects. It argues that just as selection pressure led to animals evolving useful ways of interacting with the natural environment, so also it led to the genetic evolution of advantageous social behavior.[2]

While the term "sociobiology" originated at least as early as the 1940s, the concept did not gain major recognition until the publication of E. O. Wilson's book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis in 1975. The new field quickly became the subject of controversy. Critics, led by Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, argued that genes played a role in human behavior, but that traits such as aggressiveness could be explained by social environment rather than by biology. Sociobiologists responded by pointing to the complex relationship between nature and nurture.

E. O. Wilson defined sociobiology as "the extension of population biology and evolutionary theory to social organization".[3]

Sociobiology is based on the premise that some behaviors (social and individual) are at least partly inherited and can be affected by natural selection.[4] It begins with the idea that behaviors have evolved over time, similar to the way that physical traits are thought to have evolved. It predicts that animals will act in ways that have proven to be evolutionarily successful over time. This can, among other things, result in the formation of complex social processes conducive to evolutionary fitness.

The discipline seeks to explain behavior as a product of natural selection. Behavior is therefore seen as an effort to preserve one's genes in the population. Inherent in sociobiological reasoning is the idea that certain genes or gene combinations that influence particular behavioral traits can be inherited from generation to generation.[5]

For example, newly dominant male lions often kill cubs in the pride that they did not sire. This behavior is adaptive because killing the cubs eliminates competition for their own offspring and causes the nursing females to come into heat faster, thus allowing more of his genes to enter into the population. Sociobiologists would view this instinctual cub-killing behavior as being inherited through the genes of successfully reproducing male lions, whereas non-killing behavior may have died out as those lions were less successful in reproducing.[6]

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