Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Divorce is good for us

After all the bad press divorce has received recently by causing damage to the environment, some scientists are actually suggesting that it can be a good thing. This article in the Telegraph today reports that a group of mathematicians and biologists are proposing that when individuals in a population are choosy about their partners cooperativeness is rewarded and tends to increase, and divorce enables them to be choosy. As Professor John McNamara explains: "an individual's level of choosiness determines the level of cooperation demanded of its partner. If the current partner is not cooperative enough the individual stops interacting with this partner and seeks a better partner, even though finding a new partner incurs costs". Or, to put it another way: when an individual's cooperativeness is used by other individuals as a choice criterion, there can be competition to be more generous than others, a situation called 'competitive altruism'. Such a theory could help explain why humans tend to cooperate, in contravention of the 'selfishness' of natural selection.

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