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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 ?
Budden at University of Wales in Bangor in the May BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY AND SOCIOBIOLOGY.
SIMILARLY FAULTY LOGIC IS SOMETIMES employed in evolutionary psychology, the field Perry calls "the foster child of sociobiology.
This war against sociobiology and its successor, evolutionary psychology, is an urgent kind, not just an obscure debate about the mating habits of bonobos.
The significance of sociobiology is that it privileges nature over nurture in the perennial debate over whether human behaviour is influenced more by biological inheritance or environment.
He even invented a name for this new discipline: Sociobiology.
The investigation of sociobiology in chapter 3 is arguably the most important for Boyd's larger case.
Influenced by EO Wilson's classic book Sociobiology, Allan Cormack envisaged a merging and synthesis of ethics, politics and aesthetics with cognitive sciences--physiology, biochemistry, genetics and ultimately mathematics and physics, and an understanding of animal behaviour.
The fish's lack of dietary diversity makes them less adaptable as their sole food source faces stress from pollution and climate change, the scientists said in a study published in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.
Max asked the famous founder of sociobiology and author of Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge, Edward O.
A subset of neo-Darwinian theories related to social behaviour became known as sociobiology.
Professor of psychology and proponent of sociobiology David P.
The altruistic behavior of humans and other primates became the basis of the sociobiology of the 80s, whose boom began when Edward O.