How has evolution shaped human behavior? Richard Alexander's contribution to an important question

William Irons*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Richard Alexander has been a major contributor to the development of theory concerning the evolution of human sociality. His most important contributions include (1) a theory of the evolution of morality as a form of indirect reciprocity that aids in intergroup competition, (2) a theory of the relationship between biological evolution and culture, (3) an elaboration of Humphrey's theory of the human intellect as a social tool, (4) theories about human parental investment and nepotism, and (5) theories about scenario building, consciousness, and human communication. He also has offered a hypotheses on a large range of other human traits. He is a biologist and has also made major contributions to theories of speciation, communication, eusociality, and social organization in nonhuman animals and has contributed extensively to the study of a number of specific taxa other than the human species: crickets, katydids, cicadas, naked mole rats, and horses. His contribution to the study of nonhuman animals and evolutionary theory, in general, are sufficient to earn him a reputation as an outstanding leader in biology without reference to his work on humans. The same can be said for his contribution to the understanding of human sociality taken alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005


  • Balance-of-power hypothesis
  • Evolution and culture
  • Evolution of human sociality
  • Gossip
  • Indirect reciprocity
  • Intelligence
  • Language
  • Morality
  • Nepotism
  • Parental care
  • Richard Alexander

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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