Competitive Altruism, Mentalizing and Signalling

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper


The human tendency to cooperate with nonkin even in short-run relationships remains a puzzle. Recently it has been hypothesized that altruism may be a byproduct of “mentalizing”, the process of understanding and predicting the mental states of others. Another idea is based on sexual selection: altruism is a costly signal of good genes. The paper shows that these two arguments are stronger when combined in that altruists who can mentalize have a greater advantage over non-altruists when they can signal their type, even though these signals are costly. Further, once such an equilibrium is established, altruists will not be supplanted by mutants who have similar mentalizing abilities but who lack altruism.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherEdinburgh School of Economics Discussion Paper Series
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010

Publication series

NameESE Discussion Papers


  • altruism
  • sexual selection
  • mentalizing
  • social preferences
  • signalling
  • tournaments
  • evolution
  • C73
  • D64
  • D83


Dive into the research topics of 'Competitive Altruism, Mentalizing and Signalling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this