• Individual variation;
  • kin selection;
  • nongenetic differences;
  • quality discrimination;
  • reproductive value;
  • social value

Social groups are often composed of individuals who differ in many respects. Theoretical studies on the evolution of helping and harming behaviors have largely focused upon genetic differences between individuals. However, nongenetic variation between group members is widespread in natural populations, and may mediate differences in individuals’ social behavior. Here, we develop a framework to study how variation in individual quality mediates the evolution of unconditional and conditional social traits. We investigate the scope for the evolution of social traits that are conditional on the quality of the actor and/or recipients. We find that asymmetries in individual quality can lead to the evolution of plastic traits with different individuals expressing helping and harming traits within the same group. In this context, population viscosity can mediate the evolution of social traits, and local competition can promote both helping and harming behaviors. Furthermore, asymmetries in individual quality can lead to the evolution of competition-like traits between clonal individuals. Overall, we highlight the importance of asymmetries in individual quality, including differences in reproductive value and the ability to engage in successful social interactions, in mediating the evolution of helping and harming behaviors.