Supplementary material from "The evolution of early-life effects on social behaviour—why should social adversity carry over to the future?"

Published on 2019-02-07T13:56:03Z (GMT) by
Numerous studies have shown that social adversity in early life can have long-lasting consequences for social behaviour in adulthood, consequences that may in turn be propagated to future generations. Given these intergenerational effects, it is puzzling why natural selection might favour such sensitivity to an individual’s early social environment. To address this question, we model the evolution of social sensitivity in the development of helping behaviours, showing that natural selection indeed favours individuals whose tendency to help others is dependent on early-life social experience. In organisms with non-overlapping generations, we find that natural selection can favour positive social feedbacks, in which individuals who received more help in early life are also more likely to help others in adulthood, while individuals who received no early-life help develop low tendencies to help others later in life. This positive social sensitivity is favoured because of an intergenerational relatedness feedback: patches with many helpers tend to be more productive, leading to higher relatedness within the local group, which in turn favours higher levels of help in the next generation. In organisms with overlapping generations, this positive feedback is less likely to occur, and those who received more help may instead be less likely to help others (negative social feedback). We conclude that the early-life social influences can lead to strong between-individual differences in helping behaviour, which can take different forms dependent on the life history in question.This article is part of the theme issue ‘Developing differences: towards an evolutionary medicine of early life effects’.

Cite this collection

Kuijper, Bram; A. Johnstone, Rufus (2019): Supplementary material from "The evolution of early-life effects on social behaviour—why should social adversity carry over to the future?". The Royal Society. Collection.