Food transfers among Hiwi foragers of Venezuela: Tests of reciprocity

Michael Gurven, Kim Hill, Hillard Kaplan, Ana Hurtado, Richard Lyles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Although food sharing has been observed in many traditional societies, we still do not have a deep understanding of how various ecological conditions produce variation in who gives and who receives specific resources. To understand better the behavioral ecology of food sharing, we present data collected with the Hiwi of Venezuela and focus on two questions: (a) How do characteristics of food resources and acquirers determine how much is transfered to others? (b) How do characteristics of nuclear families A and B influence how much is transferred between A and B? We use path modeling in an attempt to tease apart the relative contribution of biological kinship, geographical proximity between households, family size, and quantities family B gave to family A on the expected quantities that family A gives to family B. Reciprocal altruism is shown to be an important link in the chain of factors, but not in the tit-for-tat form common in theoretical treatments of reciprocity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-218
Number of pages48
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Bargaining theory
  • Evolutionary ecology
  • Food sharing
  • Hunter-gatherers
  • Reciprocal altruism
  • Venezuela

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Anthropology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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