Altruistic cooperation during foraging by the Ache, and the evolved human predisposition to cooperate

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159 Scopus citations


This paper presents quantitative data on altruistic cooperation during food acquisition by Ache foragers. Cooperative activities are defined as those that entail a cost of time and energy to the donor but primarily lead to an increase in the foraging success of the recipient. Data show that Ache men and women spend about 10% of all foraging time engaged in altruistic cooperation on average, and that on some days they may spend more than 50% of their foraging time in such activities. The most time-consuming cooperative activity for both sexes is helping during the pursuit of game animals, a pattern that is probably linked to the widespread sharing of game by Ache foragers. Cooperative food acquisition and subsequent food redistribution in hunter-gatherer societies are critical behaviors that probably helped shape universal, evolved, cooperative tendencies that are well illustrated in modern experimental economics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-128
Number of pages24
JournalHuman Nature
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Ache
  • Altruism
  • Cooperation
  • Food acquisition
  • Foraging
  • Hunter-gatherers
  • Sexual division of labor

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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