Revisiting Psychological Mechanisms in the Anthropology of Altruism

Joseph Hackman, Shirajum Munira, Khaleda Jasmin, Daniel Hruschka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Anthropologists have long been interested in the reasons humans choose to help some individuals and not others. Early research considered psychological mediators, such as feelings of cohesion or closeness, but more recent work, largely in the tradition of human behavioral ecology, shifted attention away from psychological measures to clearer observables, such as past behavior, genetic relatedness, affinal ties, and geographic proximity. In this paper, we assess the value of reintegrating psychological measures—perceived social closeness—into the anthropological study of altruism. Specifically, analyzing social network data from four communities in rural Bangladesh (N = 516), we show that perceived closeness has a strong independent effect on helping, which cannot be accounted for by other factors. These results illustrate the potential value of reintegrating proximate psychological measures into anthropological studies of human cooperation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-91
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Nature
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Altruism
  • Emotional closeness
  • Friendship
  • Helping
  • Social closeness
  • Social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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