1. Evolutionary Biology
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Can Hamilton's rule be violated?

  1. Matthijs van Veelen  Is a corresponding author
  1. University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Research Article
  • Cited 3
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Cite this article as: eLife 2018;7:e41901 doi: 10.7554/eLife.41901


How generally Hamilton's rule holds is a much debated question. The answer to that question depends on how costs and benefits are defined. When using the regression method to define costs and benefits, there is no scope for violations of Hamilton's rule. We introduce a general model for assortative group compositions to show that, when using the counterfactual method for computing costs and benefits, there is room for violations. The model also shows that there are limitations to observing violations in equilibrium, as the discrepancies between Hamilton's rule and the direction of selection may imply that selection will take the population out of the region of disagreement, precluding observations of violations in equilibrium. Given what it takes to create a violation, empirical tests of Hamilton's rule, both in and out of equilibrium, require the use of statistical models that allow for identifying non-linearities in the fitness function.

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Author details

  1. Matthijs van Veelen

    Economics and Business, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-8290-9212


The authors declare that there was no funding for this work.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Michael Doebeli, University of British Columbia, Canada

Publication history

  1. Received: September 10, 2018
  2. Accepted: October 10, 2018
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: October 15, 2018 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: November 22, 2018 (version 2)


© 2018, van Veelen

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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