Spite and altruism don’t often get put in the same sentence, but they have one thing in common: practitioners of both harm or help others, respectively, at a cost to themselves. That means that to be spiteful or altruistic takes effort, so why do people do it? Researchers still aren’t sure, but a new study does reveal more about HOW spite and altruism work.
It turns out that while people who are dissimilar (migrants) to a majority (the natives) in a group become altruistic to those most like them, they don’t develop much of an increase in spitefulness toward the majority types. Yet the majority types do develop a high level of spite toward the different (migrants) types, while showing little increase in altruism toward their own kind. One conclusion is that the exchange of genes between similar types is more likely when the different types are less welcome, creating an environment more conducive to passing along one’s genes.