Why do altruistic people cluster together?

"Do people who are genetically predisposed towards altruism tend to flock together? Or do people become more altruistic when they interact with others who display this trait? Or are external environmental conditions the major influence? Research shows that all three factors play a role. Whatever genetic predispositions people have, their prosociality changes according to where they are and who they are with. Much depends on their social environment."

This is an excerpt from an incredibly interesting article by Dr. David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University in New York. In it, he describes the findings he made when he geographically mapped prosocial behavior (that is, "behavior geared towards the care and welfare of others or the promotion of society") across the city of Binghamton.

Wilson mapped his prosocial data points in the form of a topographical map. Interestingly, he found that prosocial behavior was not distributed evenly throughout the city, but rather appeared in peaks and valleys corresponding to areas of highly prosocial people and people who "appeared to care little for others or society," respectively.

But what's causing prosocial behavior to emerge in clusters? Wilson believes the answer to this question, and the solution to its occurrence, may lie in the fields of evolutionary and economic theory — a hypothesis he is testing with the Design Your Own Park project, which unifies people with the common goal of designing a neighborhood park.

You can read about Wilson's efforts to bridge academic research with social progress, including the ongoing status of his Design Your Own Park project, over at New Scientist
Visit Wilson's Website