The academy is the nation's pre-eminent learned society and research institution, and the honor is considered second only to winning a Nobel Prize. The academy's 2005 class of 196 fellows and 17 foreign honorary members also includes Nobel Prize-winning physicist Eric Cornell, actor and director Sidney Poitier, journalist Tom Brokaw and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Trivers and the other new members will be officially inducted in October.
Trivers redefined the fields of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology by applying the theory of natural selection to the evolution of social behavior exploring the logic by which social traits are favored by natural selection and evolve through time like physical characteristics. He considered how natural selection acts on behavioral conflicts between parents and offspring, in the choice of mates and the way in which people interact to get what they want from others in their social groups. He has written extensively on the evolution of altruism, parental investment and sexual selection, the sex ratio, deceit and self-deception.
Trivers may be best known for his theory of reciprocal altruism, whereby an apparently altruistic behavior is performed with the understanding that the recipient will reciprocate at some future: the theory expressed in its simplest form as "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." As applied to humans, Trivers said, the theory posits that "traits like friendship evolved
Contact: Joseph Blumberg
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey