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Winners and losers: an evolutionary perspective

Lee Dugatkin

‘Winners will be winners’ and ‘losers will be losers’. But why did this evolve and how does it affect the group?

Evolutionary models suggest that winner effects lead to societies in which everyone’s rank is clear, whereas loser effects tend to produce despotic hierarchies, ruled by a single individual.Many animals spend a large portion of their lives living in groups, and behavioral dynamics within and between groups are critical to understanding group living in both nonhumans and humans.  A striking aspect of group life in most species is the presence of aggression and dominance hierarchies – aggression, or the lack of it, is often the most salient behavioral component of life in groups.  Dominance hierarchies are shaped by aggressive encounter between individuals in the group. Winning or losing in these encounters will have an effect on your probability to win or lose again in the future; ‘winners will be winners’ and ‘losers will be losers’. The power of winner and loser effects tends to shape group dynamics in everything from birds to primates. But why did this evolve and how does it affect the group?  Evolutionary models suggest that winner effects lead to societies in which everyone’s rank is clear, whereas loser effects tend to produce despotic hierarchies, ruled by a single individual.

 

 

Lee Dugatkin is a Professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Biology at The University of Louisville. His main area of research interest is the evolution of social behavior. He is the author of over 145 articles on evolution and behavior in such journals as Nature, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and The Proceedings of The Royal Society of London. He has published three books on the evolution of cooperation: Cooperation among Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective, Oxford University Press (1997), Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees ( 1999), and  The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness ( 2006). These books have been translated into German, Chinese, Korean and Japanese and Spanish. He is also author of Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose (The University of Chicago Press, 2009) and his latest trade book is The Prince of Evolution (2011).

Interesting links
University of Louisville: Homepage Lee Dugatkin
Amazon: Lee Dugatkin's books

 

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