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controversial field that studies how natural selection, previously used only to explain the evolution of physical characteristics, shapes behavior in animals and humans. The theory has contributed to the understanding of certain evolutionary traits in the animal world, such as how instinctive parental behaviors of animals are determined in part by the need to ensure survival of offspring. A related aspect of sociobiology deals with altruistic behaviors in general. In a theory called kin selection, animals that behave altruistically would have their genes passed on by helping relatives who share their genes survive to reproduce, just as they would by producing offspring of their own.

The theory first gained attention when E. O. WilsonWilson, Edward Osborne,
1929–, American sociobiologist, b. Birmingham, Ala. Founder of sociobiology, Wilson was educated at the Univ. of Alabama and Harvard, joined the Harvard faculty in 1956, and later became a professor of zoology.
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 of Harvard published Sociobiology (1975); it became controversial when he proposed extending the theory to explain human social behavior and psychological patterns. Critics charged that this application of sociobiology was a form of genetic determinism and that it failed to take into account the complexity of human behavior and the impact of the environment on human development.

Scientists have recently discovered individual genes in laboratory worms that influence social behavior, such as gregarious feeding habits. Continued research of this kind, into what has been called the "molecular biology of social behavior," is likely to provide new insights into sociobiology.


theory and research within the field of evolutionary biology which seeks to provide biological explanations for the evolution of social behaviour and organization in animals and humans. Proponents of sociobiological theories (e.g. E. O. Wilson, 1975) regard the problem of the evolution of altruism as a major challenge, since altruism implies a sacrifice of individual fitness incompatible with classical evolutionary theory. Proponents of sociobiology have been criticized for arguing their case from selective evidence, for making claims for behavioural ‘universals’ speculatively and assuming their innate basis. See also ETHOLOGY, TERRITORIAL IMPERATIVE.


[¦sō·sē·ō· bī′äl·ə·jē]
A discipline that applies evolutionary biology to the study of animal social behavior, including human behavior; considered a synthesis of ethology, ecology, and evolution, in which social behavior is viewed as the result of natural selection and other biological processes.
References in periodicals archive ?
11) In the view of Carroll and other biopoetic scholars (see Carroll 2010, 213), the essential core of sociobiological analysis rests on the recognition that "culture does not stand apart from the genetically transmitted dispositions of human nature.
A second level of analysis is needed to explore the ways in which such sociobiological configurations may influence pathogen emergence, evolution, and transmission into human populations, including the development of plausible risk scenarios.
In nut shell, it can be said that the Pied Bush Chat uses a variety of calls each serving a different sociobiological function.
Classical psychological theories (neopsychoanalytic, sociobiological, and cognitive) emphasize that there is less perceived emotional closeness and a higher rate of conflict with parents during adolescence, which was observed in some international studies with U.
Whereas he injects critical remarks about radical feminism, presents a daring sociobiological treatment of infanticide, and takes off the gloves in discussing the excessive national obsession with children's safety, the section on civil rights and racial discrimination is the most politically correct part of the book.
We deliberate the role of several sociobiological principles involved in the arrangement of unions in consanguineous families.
The second has to do with one of the simplest and plainest of sociobiological realities: Marriage is a relationship of purpose, a purpose starkly biological in nature.
Drawing on sociobiological theory, Fukuyama also now posits a general tendency for human beings to favor kin with whom they have previously exchanged favors.
As my own specialty is moral philosophy and metaethics, it seems most apt for me to concentrate my remarks on these parts of the book, especially since it may be fairly said that the lion's share of the book is dedicated to these issues: in particular, a defense of a sociobiological account of altruism and an account of moral realism consistent with it.
Whether debating the advisability of providing nurseries for the children of working mothers or of training women to undertake agricultural tasks, it was clear that any departure from sociobiological notions of femininity was only to be considered in the context of "the special circumstances of war.
One critic suggested that Thornhill and Palmer's (2000) book A Natural History of Rape is, itself, a work of advocacy, not science (Coyne & Berry, 2000); in this vein, it is evident that scientists such as Thornhill and Palmer and Wilson (1998) have envisioned a far more prominent role for sociobiological theories of human behavior (and policy prescriptions based on these perspectives) than exists currently.
After examining and dismissing rational choice, sociobiological, and Social Identity theories with regard to their explanation for conflict and peace, she advances as a more useful framework the constructivist approach, which holds that the 'meanings of identities, including definitions of group membership, members' values, attitudes, interests, and so forth, are constructed in discourse, that accomplishes social tasks', conflict and peace being two such social tasks (p.