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Humans Are Nicer Than We Think

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the doing-the-right-thing dept.

Science 372

derekmead writes "While everyone's always waxing like Lord Tennyson about nature being 'red in tooth and claw,' neuroscience and psychology are quietly telling us that we may be innately nicer than we think. Sure, we're not cuddly little bunny rabbits, but many lines of evidence over the past few decades have pointed toward some distinctly physical underpinning of basic morality and aversion to violence, implying that humans (and probably many other animals to) have a strong built-in 'try-not-to-punch-that-dude' mechanism. A recent study published in the journal Emotion, by psychologists Fiery Cushman, Allison Gaffey, Kurt Gray, and Wendy Mendes, provides some further evidence for the link, as the authors put it, 'between the body and moral decision-making processes.'"

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372 comments

First post (1, Offtopic)

torsmo (1301691) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299039)

Be nice, dude.

I know (1, Offtopic)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299057)

I always know that Human Beings are basically nice

Take for instance -

I am a human being

and

I am a nice guy

Have a nice day :)

I'm an exception to the rule (5, Informative)

ProgrammerJulia (2589195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299093)

Because I'm a huge asshole.

Re:I'm an exception to the rule (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299129)

Lemme give ya a hug!

Re:I'm an exception to the rule (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299227)

Always nice to see the population of rollers isn't completely extinguished yet by whatever huge conspiracy force that's trying to kill it.

Re:I'm an exception to the rule (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299147)

Don't worry, you'll do fine at Microsoft.

Re:I'm an exception to the rule (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299237)

Because I'm a huge asshole.

That's ok - I'm a nigger!

Re:I know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299161)

Thanks man!
You have a nice day too ;)

I wonder how many people still understand this basic, fundamental sort of non-foolisness.

Re:I know (4, Insightful)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299267)

If we have a fundamental aversion to violence, then why are we entertained by it?
Personally I think it's the lack of consequences that entertainment-based violence offers. That our built-in aversion to violence is a more wide-ranging built-in aversion to getting into situations that would end badly for us. A Risk/Reward system built in to our biology.

Also, *Doffs hat* Have a nice day.

Re:I know (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299389)

We've understood for a long time that a willingness to form groups, adopt common ideologies, protect each others young, feed each other, etc. are all survival traits.

I'm not surprised it's a built-in feature by now.

Re:I know (5, Insightful)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299395)

>If we have a fundamental aversion to violence, then why are we entertained by it?

So it never occurred to you that humans have the capacity to tell fantasy and reality appart and can in fantasy enjoy the very things that we are averse to in reality without any particular causal link or need for the one to bleed into the other ?
Not to do deny that such bleeding over never happens, only that there is no proof nor even any GOOD reasons to believe it's inevitable or that the process is not entirely within the conscious control of the person involved.

We're entertained by fictional violence because they appeal to our flght-or-flight adrenal gland responses without triggering any of the emotions that real violence links to - disgust, fear etc.

This kind of study is actually quite in line with what we can observe all the time - people who are under the influence of drugs like alcohol are far more likely to act violently. That makes sense as natural aversions are reduced by such drugs (the same reason they have a notable reductive effect on sexual inhibitions)

It's a tad old, but (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299641)

You seem to ignore the fact that large numbers of people enjoy actual violence, injury and death. Most notable would have been the gladiators and others that were killed off in large numbers in front of very large crowds almost every day. More recently we just love the actual crashing and hurting involved in sports (American Football, Football, Rugby, Boxing etc). Not so much to the death now-a-days, but we do love our actual violence even though it's in the organised sports realm.

That and we seem to have copious quantities of examples of warfare and the barbarism (gulags, the killing fields, ethnic cleansing, the "resource wars" in Africa, etc etc), which by all accounts all too many people enthusiastically participate in.

I guess that I'm thoroughly unconvinced by this study.

Re:I know (4, Interesting)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299451)

There's probably a near infinite number of basic differences between accurately depicting violence and showing it the way most entertainment does. For just a few examples, take films such as Con Air or the Die Hard series. Are people really attracted to the message of violence itself, or do they like it that the violence seems to fall hardest on the worst villians, as though the violence became proof that there was some sort of God, if only a God of Wrath that would steer a falling villiain into landing in an improvised electric chair? Most people are not attracted to entertainment where violence is shown as part of the random seeming outcomes of the real world. Showing that the Uber-Eeeevil guy still has people who miss him once he's gone - that what one person considers a terrorist, another considers a freedom fighter - that bullets don't always stop in the primary target - these things tend to hurt entertainment sales.
          In a way, you could argue that the (fictive, entertainment depiction of) violence is itself never the real problem, and worrying about the effect of it on even children is worrying about the wrong aspect of the TV shows and films in question. Even if we grant the premise that entertainment violence does have bad effects on some people, maybe it's the terrible inaccuracy of films that show people shooting guns out of "perp's" hands with high powered sniper rifles that would take said perp's whole arm off at the shoulder that cause the psychological damage. Maybe showing the randomness of a realistic firefight, showing the consequences with some respect for realism, is what's needed to keep from glamorizing the violence itself. Maybe it's showing guns as surgically precise tools and bullets as steered by the god of the tribe of good guys to achieve instant karma. Maybe it's showing people falling down, but not showing funerals full of grieving families, or people spending the rest of their lives in wheelchairs, or even some poor janitor having to mop up the mess. Maybe it's the claim that the strong and decent are quick to resort to violence rather than reluctant at best.

Violence is boring. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299481)

If we have a fundamental aversion to violence, then why are we entertained by it?

I don't think it's the violence, per se. The violence in movies and video games are more wish fulfillment - getting the bad guy and giving him what he deserves.

Grand Theft Auto, OTOH, .....fantasy - a "what if I went completely ape shit sociopath" type of fantasy.

Then it gets boring.

And I find as I get older, the violence get more and more boring. I really don't like action movies. When the fight scenes come, I fidget until they're over - Jackie Chan may be the exception because he's dancing more than he's fighting. Star Wars, the third movie where Vader is created (I don't give a shit what the real title is), put me to sleep - and still does.

And with any basic knowledge of physics, action movies are incredibly annoying. My biggest pet peeve - when someone shoots someone the shooter doesn't move and the person being shot flies back several meters. I wish there was a zombie Newton that would eat all the brains in Hollywood - but the poor bastard would starve.

Re:I know (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299639)

Personally I think it's the lack of consequences that entertainment-based violence offers.

I'm going to have to disagree with you there: Historically, there were gladiator games and Mayan ball court games with very real risks to the players. Even the modern somewhat-less-violent versions (full-contact sports like football, UFC, boxing, WWE) has significant consequences to the participants in the form of concussions, broken limbs, problems related to steroid use, and shorter life spans. And then there's the people who seem to treat real warfare casually and as entertainment (who are never the people actually fighting it).

Humans do seem to accept violence that risks other people's lives as entertainment.

Re:I know (5, Interesting)

flyneye (84093) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299457)

When I was young I was the nicest guy I knew
I thought I was the chosen one
But time went by and I found out a thing or two
My shine wore off as time wore on
I thought that I was living out the perfect life
But in the lonely hours when the truth begins to bite
I thought about the times when I turned my back & stalled
I ain't no nice guy after all --Lemmy Kilminster

Lemmy said it better than I could.
Time and survival have turned me from a nice kid to a cynical punk to a vicious hoodlum to a cracked middle aged guy trying to find that nice kid again.
I think whoever did this research didn't go to the wrong side of town or find subjects outside their safe comfort zone. Like the dick that I am, I'm gonna have'ta call bad science on this one.
Like they say, "you can't go home again".... I ain't no nice guy after all.

Re:First post (3, Interesting)

sjwt (161428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299205)

Do we count honesty as nice? A little experiment (in the form of an ad for a bank that I do not use, am not employed by or own shares of).

Would you give back the $5 to this asshole?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgiWkVZGN7g [youtube.com]

Re:First post (1)

HopefulIntern (1759406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299661)

Tried to find a good link but all I found was this one. [etaglive.com]
Honesty tests conducted to determine most honest city/country. Just an excuse for me to brag about my home country of Norway, heh

A whole Journal on Emotion? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299067)

I would guess this journal doesn't have many subscriptions on the planet Vulcan.

Re:A whole Journal on Emotion? (5, Funny)

titanium93 (839011) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299433)

On the contrary, they find the subject, "fascinating". (similar to why 'average' looking women buy Glamor magazine)

In other news (5, Interesting)

zrbyte (1666979) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299073)

Humans have a built in mechanism that focuses more of their attention towards bad things, "not nice" people, etc. Because it's the not nice things / people that have a higher probability of killing you and thus deserve more of your attention.

Re:In other news (4, Insightful)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299109)

Maybe that's one reason why news concentrate on bad issues. (On the other hand, everything on the world is well - the news report just lists the exceptions!)

But back to your point, in the long run it might be the opposite, that people tend to remember more good things while mind works to forget the crappy stuff.

I'm soooo sorry to rain on your parade (5, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299173)

But back to your point, in the long run it might be the opposite, that people tend to remember more good things while mind works to forget the crappy stuff

I am very sorry, but I need to point out one very important thing ---

Contrary to your assertion, the human mind remembers bad events that create bad vibes much more than good feeling events

Here's one experiment that you can carry out yourself ---

Go do 100 good things to one person --- open door for the person, pour drink for the person, say "Hello", sweep the yard, clean the car ... and so on

After you do all that, do one bad thing to that same person --- just one will do

You can slap that person, or punch him/her, or kick the cat or whatever

See how that person will react

Will that person forgive your one bad act because you have done 100 good things for him/her?

Or will that person remember you forever for that one bad thing that you did to him/her --- and forgot all about the other 100 good things that you have done?

Go try that out yourself, and see the result

Re:I'm soooo sorry to rain on your parade (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299215)

Assuming you are correct, the real question is: how much of this behavior is learned from other humans (parents, friends, etc), and how much of it is actually wired into the brain. Could it be that we just live in a dysfunctional society and therefore suffer from species-wide mental health issues? I look at my dog and she doesn't seem to be bothered by negative experiences (can't play with you right now, can't give you a treat right now, don't bite, don't lick, etc) so much. When being corrected she obviously doesn't like it and puts on her "sad" expression (crouching, ears back, tail down, etc) but it lasts oh, 5 seconds, if that? The staring at me with a smile on her face even when I'm ignoring her and doing something else lasts a lot longer.

We humans on the other hand tend to dwell on the negatives.

Re:I'm soooo sorry to rain on your parade (2)

malkavian (9512) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299289)

Because these days you're trained to believe you can sue for them and turn "being a victim" into a very profitable advantage.

Re:I'm soooo sorry to rain on your parade (3, Interesting)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299431)

It is most probably an evolutionary mechanism to reinforce group cohesion. Clearly we are better off as a group than as lone wolfs, especially some thousand years back. Those who don't collaborate, are egoistic in nature or are just plain aggressive benefit from the group without contributing so the group has a very good reason to get rid of them (or socially isolate them). You can find a more academic formulation in game theory to explain altruism and why egoistic behaviours don't take over a population over generations ultimately hurting the group/species.

Re:I'm soooo sorry to rain on your parade (5, Insightful)

Iskender (1040286) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299313)

Did you notice your examples of good and bad deeds are on completely different levels? Punching someone isn't a mirror image of saying hello, at least not where I live.

Say someone does try to beat you up, and a third person intervenes to "save" you. Same level of violence, one bad, one good deed.

I don't think you'll forget either.

Re:I'm soooo sorry to rain on your parade (4, Interesting)

olau (314197) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299691)

You could also turn it around. If you kicked someone every day for a year, I'm sure they'd remember the single day you gave that person a free lunch and a pat on the back.

Re:In other news (4, Interesting)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299411)

>Maybe that's one reason why news concentrate on bad issues. (On the other hand, everything on the world is well - the news report just lists the exceptions!)

I'm inclined to Bruce Schneier's point of view. News must be new - and rare. Things that happen all the time aren't new or news and nobody cares to be informed about them - the result is news of things that are rare and infrequent. His conclusion: anything that's on the news is by definition too low a risk to worry about.

Re:In other news (4, Interesting)

Sique (173459) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299489)

Well, it's mostly because good news in most cases doesn't have much information in it: "everything is fine. no problems" is not really newsworthy.

If you look at C. Shannon's definition of information (being the reciprocal of probability), events that we expect to happen, mostly have a high probability and thus not much information to begin with. But events we expect are events we are well prepared for, thus the happening of those events is good news for us. Really big news is at first improbable and thus disruptive, it contradicts our expectation and leaves us unprepared. Thus big news in the most cases is bad news for us.

Re:In other news (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299719)

Wow, you people have no idea what Soviet news was like, do you? "And in national news, the infant mortality rate for calves born to the Soviet farmer has deceased another astonishing 0.03% over the past decade, proving once again the infinite wisdom and foresight of the Fathers of our great nation, V.I. Lenin and I.V. Stalin."

No, your logic is flawed (5, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299531)

Recent dutch new story, some kids taped a pet mouse to a firework rocket. Why was this news? Because reporting each and every day the billions of pets NOT mistreated would make the news run a bit long.

News is something that is exceptional, not the norm. Today the sun came up, is NOT news. Today the sun didn't come up, that is news.

No need to dig deeper.

it would be nice (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299081)

to publish the study freely :-))

Fiery Cushman? (3, Funny)

kahizonaki (1226692) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299083)

Is that his stage name? What a badass name though, seriously.

Re:Fiery Cushman? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299441)

Fiery Tushman - now that guy's a bad ass.

Perhaps.... (4, Insightful)

stms (1132653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299089)

Perhaps its because when you punch that dude you risk being expelled from the gene pool due to death or damage to reproductive organs. Nature (and thus humans) are usually only violent when violence increases their chance to reproduce it has nothing to do with morality.

Re:Perhaps.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299121)

Also when your environment forces you to take violence as a form of communication, where punching means "it was nice meeting you" and stabbing to death means "I didn't know how to express my issues so that we could solve them together".

Re:Perhaps.... (4, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299383)

Also when your environment forces you to take violence as a form of communication, where punching means "it was nice meeting you" and stabbing to death means "I didn't know how to express my issues so that we could solve them together".

So, I take it you're from The Bronx?

Re:Perhaps.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299235)

Yup. There's always a risk in fighting. Also, there's a quite clear evolutionary benefit to not killing everyone else.

Re:Perhaps.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299295)

It has everything to do with morality, it IS morality.

The situation you describe is exactly where personal moral feeling comes from. Its nature telling you (by making you feel bad) that punching that dude is a risky strategy for yourself. The public side of morailty (what we tell others they should do) follows the same rule: My repoduction works better in a world where everybody tells everybody else not to punch each other.

Perhaps you meant "it has nothing to do with moral absolutes". Then I would agree with you.

Re:Perhaps.... (5, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299741)

I made an "artificial life" simulator - at one point in the simulation I gave the creatures the ability to kill one another (by attempting to occupy the same space at the same time, the bigger (and so, fitter and more able to reproduce) creature would win, and get a food boost as a bonus, too.) Population plummeted for many generations while the creatures slaughtered each other, but then a few generations later, population suddenly increased again - a mutation had learned how to avoid collisions and thus was able to more densely populate the available space. Within a short time, non-violent creatures became dominant over intentionally or accidentally violent ones by a ratio of more than 100:1.

Cynical... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299101)

In other words, humans are cynical?

Bunnies ain't cuddly (4, Insightful)

Simon Rowe (1206316) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299105)

They can rip each other to shreds if the mood takes them.

Re:Bunnies ain't cuddly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299111)

How many times do I have to tell you? Don't give the bunnies strong lager!

Re:Bunnies ain't cuddly (1)

Anonymus (2267354) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299391)

I once saw two rabbits in what I assume was battle. The were both standing on their hind legs facing each other, and one of them jumped into the air and kicked the other one with the legs it had been standing on, then landed on its hind legs again. Most shocking/freaky animal behaviour I've ever actually seen in person.

In person? yes. (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299117)

On the highway? no, when anonymous? no.

And when in puberty? not a chance. The human child is a outright evil thing. Ever deal with a pack of teenage girls in a middle school? Satan is nice compared to those evil things.

The "punch" & Judy show. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299151)

That's actually a good point. What does being anonymous do to the results of this study?

Re:not a chance. (2)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299189)

A large part of our being nice relies on laws.

But look what happens to people "above the law". Copyright Legislators? Not Nice.

Re:In person? yes. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299285)

A child thinks about her own pain and nobody else is important.

A teenager needs approval/status from her social group (IE. other equally selfish schoolgirls who have intelligence sufficient to co-ordinate their labour) and chooses not to consider others.

And obviously, when the chance of revenge is low, (the victim is anonymous or outnumbered) all humans behave badly.

There is actually a weapons and stranger-danger video about that:
Two distrustful cavemen meet. Caveman A offers to the other caveman what he obviously needs, some food. Caveman B kills the generous caveman and takes all the food.

While at first a warning about trust and charity, in the long-term caveman B has destroyed a source of food. Now he must find another caveman or work harder at finding food.

So the need to limit our violent impulses is the first step in creating a social structure. Similarly vicious schoolgirls quickly evolve into attractive or sociable sex kittens.

Re:In person? yes. (1)

olau (314197) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299731)

when anonymous? no.

I humbly disagree. The FPS games I've played, most people were usually friendly and nice. Of course, there's an occasional moron out to spoil the fun but they are few in comparison, although much more noticeable.

People ganging up is bad, though. I don't think that's necessarily related to age. Defenseless adults get harassed at their jobs, too.

Of course we are (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299141)

We're pack animals.

contrary to observation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299149)

My observation is that everybody cheats when they can. How does that make people "nice". Yes, I am sociophobic.

Too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299169)

"Many other animals TOO." Not "TO."

Nice but dumb? (2)

piggywig (780829) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299181)

Wait a minute. Does this mean that all those times I've thought people were being nasty they were either being ignorant or incompetent? That would mean everyone is dumber than I thought. In some ways that's easier to believe.

Re:Nice but dumb? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299231)

That would mean everyone is dumber than I thought.

Of course the joy of being among the dumb ones is that you never realize you're dumb. Like my dad used to say: "There's always someone smarter than you. Always."

Re:Nice but dumb? (4, Insightful)

sjwt (161428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299279)

Hanlon's Razor.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Well Duh! (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299193)

You mean the individuals of species that live in large groups need to get on with each other and not attack and kill each other all the time?

Who knew?

(Well, almost all biologists and anthropologists for decades, but hey)

That is begging the question (3, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299259)

The question being "How did species that live in groups evolve in the first place?" - it is a bit chicken and egg. Do animals live in groups because they have evolved towards co-operation, or do they co-operate because that is an emergent property of external pressures causing them to live in groups?

For instance, it is known that bees have an unusual form of heredity which means that sisters are more closely related than they are to the next generation. Did the bee colony co-evolve cooperation and this hereditary mechanism? Why are bonobos socially cooperative and other chimpanzee races much less so?

Another example: wrens. In the breeding season these birds are strongly territorial. In winter they will find suitable hiding places and cluster in groups to keep warm.

Once again, correlation doesn't imply causation, and this subject is well worth investigating because of its potential importance to survival as population increases.

Re:That is begging the question (3, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299299)

They "evolved" to do so. That's the answer. Natural selection. Those who were co-operative at times were more successful and hence more likely to survive. But it doesn't extend to year-round co-operation like your wren example. In the breeding season, competition gives you a better chance of producing offspring. In the winter, co-operation gives you a better chance of surviving the winter and not waste your energy fighting (because not of the females are breeding then anyway). Maybe bonobos live a different way in a different environment to chimps, buy any chance?

There's no "magic" here. The species evolved this way because of a history of random choices of co-operation (or at least tolerance) versus competition and, over time, this converges to a pattern of least resistance to survival wherever they happen to habitate.

Humans co-operate when it's advantageous (collecting food), but not when it's not (fighting over women, protecting your family, etc.). It's no great mystery, unless you want to identify the EXACT point it evolved or the EXACT cause of the evolution - but that's not going to be any use to you at all, really. Evolution is random and only converges on a best solution by chance.

Re:That is begging the question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299369)

If "Survival of the Fittest" actually meant what most people think it means, butterflies would spit acid and bunny rabbits would have fangs and razor-sharp claws.

Simple (5, Insightful)

Evtim (1022085) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299195)

People are indeed nice, because they have learned via evolution (social or biological) that cooperation is more productive overall than fighting (just ask military people what is the reason for professional armies and how many soldiers shoot in the air during battles). However, the civilization system that we build promotes and rewards above else cheaters and sociopaths. And thus, the level of psychopathy is proportional to the wealth/power. Being anti-human is a requirement to become very powerful in our paradigm.

Just make a search on "iterative prisoner's dilemma" and you will see that as long as defection is not rewarded WAY higher than cooperation (it should be higher though - one time cheating is usually profitable) people tend to cooperate. Make the reward for defection really big and well....people will cheat.

After all wealth is tight with survival chances and longevity so there is a very good biological incentive to seek wealth. The system rewards bastards, so we tend to become bastards.

I hope I am clear enough.

Re:"iterative prisoner's dilemma" (4, Insightful)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299239)

You are plenty clear enough for me, so I don't need to mirror your fine point.

System rewarding bastards applies to many levels of politics. I'll also add the economy of synergy effects - all the bastards are within 100 miles of each other, controlling 150+ million of us across the country. It's absolutely the Prisoner's Dilemma because we can't coordinate enough to vote a third party in.

Re:"iterative prisoner's dilemma" (1)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299585)

Frank: Here's to Ben!
Everyone; Here's to Ben!
Frank walks over to Jeffrey and punches him in the face.
Frank grabs Jeffrey by the collar and repeats himself
Frank: Here's to Ben!
Jeffrey: Here's to Ben.
Frank: Be Polite!
Jeffrey: Here's to Ben!

Politeness in Action!

Re:Simple (0)

jdogalt (961241) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299291)

"The system rewards bastards, so we tend to become bastards."

Actually, I doubt this is true (whether your parents were married at the time of your birth increasing your rewards from the system).

But I do suspect it is true that the system rewards people who don't think about the words they use. Because I hear so many people like you who talk like that, and clearly think they are making intelligent conversation.

Re:Simple (2)

phayes (202222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299343)

That co-operation you speak of only works inside a community.

I don't know where the original poster keeps hearing this bias towards people believing that humans are naturally out to kill each other, but that's not the bias I see. Most people believe, evidence to the contrary, the myth of the "noble savage" & that kids will naturally be nice & innocent until culturally polluted by things like racism among other memes of how nice we are to each other.

The noble savage was always disconnected from the fact that all societies, even those presented as peaceful were making war on their neighbors (& it didn't take the arrival of european colonialism to spoil their "eden" though the europeans did make a habit of massacring the natives once they arrived it also happened before).

As for kids being naturally nice & innocent until spoiled by cultural pollution from adults, that innocence & acceptance only works within what they consider to be "their" community/tribe. Introduce a stranger to their midst & the stranger is almost always excluded. Given how easily groups of children the world over band together into what can only label tribes; I'd say that any study that doesn't take this into account is flawed to the point of being useless.

This explains why people torture (2)

elucido (870205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299449)

People are indeed nice, because they have learned via evolution (social or biological) that cooperation is more productive overall than fighting (just ask military people what is the reason for professional armies and how many soldiers shoot in the air during battles). However, the civilization system that we build promotes and rewards above else cheaters and sociopaths. And thus, the level of psychopathy is proportional to the wealth/power. Being anti-human is a requirement to become very powerful in our paradigm.

Just make a search on "iterative prisoner's dilemma" and you will see that as long as defection is not rewarded WAY higher than cooperation (it should be higher though - one time cheating is usually profitable) people tend to cooperate. Make the reward for defection really big and well....people will cheat.

After all wealth is tight with survival chances and longevity so there is a very good biological incentive to seek wealth. The system rewards bastards, so we tend to become bastards.

I hope I am clear enough.

Only people aren't nice when they are prison guards. Suddenly they become mean torturers.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment [wikipedia.org]
http://www.prisonexp.org/ [prisonexp.org]

Most cheaters and sociopaths don't win (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299469)

They usually end up in prison. Its only a tiny minority of them that end up doing well and thats probably despite rather than because of their mental state. If you think all CEOs are like that then I'm afraid you've been watching too much TV, most of them are just normal people who worked hard and - in part - got lucky or knew the right people.

Re:Most cheaters and sociopaths don't win (1)

biodata (1981610) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299617)

Not sure if there is evidence to support the assertion that most cheaters and sociopaths end up in jail. We all 'know' (from folk history and common sense) that power corrupts, and the prison guards experiments in the 60s demonstrated quite clearly that perfectly ordinary people, given power, would be willing to torture others. CEOs may have worked hard and may be normal people, but normal people easily convince themselves that exploitation and torture are OK when they have power over others.

That is not nice. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299311)

An innate aversion against kicking and punching is not the same as being nice. The difference becomes apparent when a human is presented with a more indirect way of screwing over some innocent victim. People will go for it every time.
We are not nice and what the researchers have found is probably a part of our "being evil machinery". It prevents us from exposure to immediate retribution and helps us screw over others in safer ways.
Being nice involves not screwing over someone, not even indirectly, because of the delusional idea and mistaken sense of empathy that the other is a nice guy just like you.

Nicer than we think? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299323)

Feeling uneasy watching someone smash a baby for no reason only proves that most humans a not psychotic murderers. I don't know what the author thinks of humans but this is certainly below my expectations.

Media is our downfall (1)

Diav70 (1960156) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299329)

We are conditioned from a very early age to accept violence as the norm, all you have to do is look at the news everyday and its just doom and gloom and violence, this is conditioning. An opposite example is the Amish communities where violence hardly ever occurs and the basic human instincts of empathy and sympathy and generally just being nice have not been corrupted by the Media.

Re:Media is our downfall (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299487)

Really? Please explain the hidden Amazonian tribes that wipe themselves out without external intervention. Violence is not just conditioning, there's an element inherent in the human make-up. It's also not surprising. Chimpanzees and primates can be murderous by their very natures (chimps, especially, will routinely murder their own).

People who believe that humans are "acclimatised" into violence are no different to those who think we should eat only vegetables. There's a conscious effort you can make to go either way, and people pass their conscious efforts onto their children, but there's also a natural state that, if left to our own devices we will revert to. You would never be able to do the experiment, but if you left human children that had never been exposed to another human in the wild (somehow), they would resort to violence at some point (and not just in self-defence).

The Amish are not immune to violence, either, even amongst themselves (though they do emphasise a "brain over brawn" approach to make you stop and think before you do it - something that's NOT instinctual). A quick Google shows you that but, of course, not much Amish news ends up on Google at all!

A child will bash another over the head with a toy in order to take it from them. They will even bite and kick in anger before they can walk. Sure, you can be conditioned, but there's also a basal response before that kicks in.

None of which excuses such behaviour - you *CAN* be conditioned to be nicer, and it's not difficult when you're young. But to say that violence is the "norm" in modern society is getting increasingly untrue, and to suggest we condition children to accept it is even worse.

90% of the people who grew up watching violent movies, the news, etc. do NOT go on to commit any sort of violent acts, ever, at all. When people riot, the vast majority of people run away, not join in. When people go to war, desertion is rife and (nowadays with professional armies) only those who volunteered would go into battle, and there the conventions of war are generally obeyed (except by certain countries *COUGH*).

We don't have violence *because* of the media (I'm using the definition of media as ANYTHING, not just news-crews and journalists). We have violence *even though* the media exists. We'd have it if it didn't exist, plus a lot more misinformation, rumour, uneducated people (how many could "imagine" what it's like to be in a war without media coverage of some sort?), etc. which all lead to further causes of violence.

Re:Media is our downfall (1)

Diav70 (1960156) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299635)

Ok you have made some valid points and I will try to address some of these as you are right it is not just the media that causes violence but this linked with power, money, religion and corruption. The Amazonian tribes used to wipe each other out as they thought that this was because of some religious beliefs thinking they were appeasing the gods. I find it hard to believe that 2 children that have not been exposed to violence would end up beating each other if they had not seen this at some point in there past. When a child is born they are a totally black slate and everything they do is learnt. If it was true that children would fight each other then this would happen all the time but the majority of people have never resorted to violence. We are also conditioned as a people to accept greed as the norm and greed for either money or power causes violence and is usually decided by a very few people at the cost of the many, wars etc. If Hitler never existed would there have been a second world war? We as a human race are more geared towards peace and helping each other out rather then violence as the article says all you have to look at is when a disaster happens people come together and help each other out even if they do not know that person. Also if you see an old lade on the floor in the street would you help her out? Why? Everything that we do in our lives is because we have been conditioned to do so but most people would rather have peace than war, be nice rather than be horrible.

Really? - Cyclists (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299339)

Why not post a Cyclists vs Cars story? Then watch all the really nice people have a reasonably adult discussion.

*fingers crossed* I totally promise such a discussion won't degenerate to people arguing the person with the biggest penis has right of way on THEIR road, and everyone else is collateral damage *fingers crossed*

A human is nice... alone. (2)

lvxferre (2470098) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299345)

Humans are nice, yes; kin selection has made us opt for things clearly disavantageous as individuals (like honesty and non-violence to the weaker) but advantageous to our groups - being the group whatever you feel like (co-citizens, brothers of faith, nation, teenagers, team supporters, vegans/vegetarians/omnivorous...).

But ironically, when groups collide, the same kin selection with the same "group over individual" genetically embued mentality make us insane, violent and savage - war, team supporters fights, raids...

It's almost like genetics proving Anonymous is right - none of us are as cruel as all of us .

Body (1)

jimshatt (1002452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299347)

"between the body and moral decision-making processes"? Where exactly do they think the moral decision-making processes are located?

Morals = operant conditioning. (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299467)

The group conditions the individual. In specific the most elite members of the group condition the rest of the group with their morality.

Then the brain learns to react differently to stimuli. The same could be done in reverse and people could be made to like the smell of blood or get high from the sight of pain or turned on by murder. It's all possible due to neuroconditioning.

Morality is fine as long as you do whats in your self interest.

Is Good From God? (1)

mynicknamewasused (962741) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299413)

i don't think God exists, can we have objective (as oposed to subjective) moral duties and values in the absence of a god?
if so, what we think is right is merely the result of evolutive advantages of morality and nothing else.

see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqaHXKLRKzg [youtube.com]

also let me suggest http://www.philosophybro.com/ [philosophybro.com] as a rudimentary and entertaining introduction to philosophy bro..

The article is mendacious. (3, Insightful)

elucido (870205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299443)

It's smarter to be nice thats why.

If you ever were a kid and you went and punched another kid that kid is probably going to punch you back and harder than you punched them. If you pull a cats tail it's probably going to scratch or bite you. People learn to be nice because usually that is the only way to live a long life. Mean people don't get as much sympathy when something bad happens to them, and people who like violence often don't live very long unless they become professionals.

Are people nice? Yes but people are nice because they learn to be. In many cases people are nice because they have to be. Experiments have shown the exact opposite of this result. The Milgram experiment [wikipedia.org] proves that deep down people aren't nice when no one is looking or when some authority tells them to be mean. The Stanford prison torture experiment [prisonexp.org] proves the exact opposite as well in that people actually enjoy hurting others when they know they can get away with it.

The article is disinformation. It's looking at neuroscience (what people think and feel) vs what they actually do. People tend to do whatever is easiest, then they do what is smarter, and if being mean is easier and smarter than being nice then people can be mean.

That word does not mean what you think it does (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299515)

"to"... I do not think that word means what you think it does....

Canoes intead of trolleys (4, Interesting)

Richard Kirk (535523) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299565)

I have always found the trolley model to be absurd. If we were being realistic, then there would be other solutions. The same dilemma was re-written for river tribesmen, and I much prefer this version. As far as I can remember, it goes like this...

You fish on the great river. There are five people in your boat: four people who row, and a fat guy who sits in the back and baits the hooks. Your grandfather has stories of a great and fierce crocodile that lives in the river, and kills entire boat crews, but your generation have never seen it...

(1)

The crocodile appears and comes for the boat. He swims much faster than you can row, but you start to row anyway. The fat guy was standing up at the back, and he falls in. Suddenly the boat is going faster: you might get to shore, but then the fat guy is lost. Do you turn around and try to pick him up? Most people would keep going, but feel that they ought to turn back.

(2)

The crocodile appears and comes for the boat. He swims much faster than you can row, but you start to row anyway. The fat guy was standing up at the back, but does not fall in. You know if he falls in, the boat will go faster, and he may distract the crocodile too. Do you push him in? Most people would not push, but would think that the four for one exchange is reasonable.

(3)

You are the fat guy. The crocodile appears and comes for the boat. If you jump off the boat, the others might make it to shore. Most people would think that the four for one exchange is reasonable: they hope they would be noble enough to jump, but suspect the wouldn't actually do it.

Re:Canoes intead of trolleys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299727)

>I have always found the trolley model to be absurd.

Problem?

runaway trolley (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299613)

From TFA: A runaway trolley is about to run over and kill five people, but a bystander who is standing on a footbridge can shove a man in front of the train, saving the five people but killing the man. Is it permissible to shove the man?

Answer: Hell no it's not. If you aren't willing to jump yourself to save those 5 people, you have no right to force someone else to sacrifice themselves. And if you are, you don't have to push the man either.

fortunately we can 'overcome' this 'obstacle' (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299645)

by using extensive training and de-sensitization techniques, such as introducing young children to the concept of simulated rape and murder for entertainment, we can train a generation of children who will have no problem flying a remotely piloted vehicle and killing random strangers about whom they know nothing other than that the computer indicates the person is a 'target'.

(note to morons) (0)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299651)

by 'simulated rape and murder' i am referring to GTA 3, and by 'remotely piloted vehicle' im talking about what the US is doing in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and several other countries right now

It amazes me that we have to keep rediscovering (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299697)

Study after study. Paper after paper. Knowledge upon knowledge. We keep learning the same things about ourselves over and over and over again. Corruption is a problem of opportunity more than of character. We observe that people who believe they are "on top" are more likely to cheat and lie. We observe that when we know who we are dealing with and they know us, we are less likely to do 'bad things.'

It's all part of our human nature. We see it in everything we do. When we get into "road rage" we don't identify the people, we identify the car and call 'it' an asshole and handle it however we feel we need to. When we, people, deal with "non-people" things, we are assholes.

We have built-in empathy for others. But when we are able to see people as non-people, we can do truly terrible things to them.

With all that said, there are STILL individuals capable of overcoming this problem. These rare people can look upon the need and suffering of others and not feel a pang of guilt or a desire to help. We call them sociopaths, but we also call them leaders, bosses and idols.

cowardice (at best calculated odds) (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299703)

Within their own social group, maybe they're not overtly violent, but as soon as the brown monkeys sufficiently outnumber the green monkeys, the green monkeys are toast.

The whole of human history shows that whenever there's an "out" group (minority religion, skin color, language, intoxicant preference, ...) or weaker group (women, or numerically/technologically inferior tribe), they will be persistently damaged by the "in", or stronger group.

"Nice" people don't wage crusades, jihads, genocides, chattel or debt slavery, rape (or other forms of less violent sexual predation), "honor killing", ... and, as a result, there aren't very many "nice" people in the gene pool.

Additionally, look at how many women are drawn to bear children by "bad boys", cheating on their less-bad SOs to do it, or landing a "steady guy" after the baby arrives, which further reduces the amount of "nice" in the gene pool.

It's called basic goodness... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299785)

and it's one of the central tenets of the world's oldest oldest psychological tradition, most commonly known as Buddhism.

We are basically good. We treat others badly because we are not very good at dealing with our own suffering.

Finally, "news for nerds"! (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299789)

People are more complex than a simple markov chain can model.
What is the next newsflash for nerds?
"Randomly applying theory x yields no new information!"
"Ignoring everything that doesn't agree with your viewpoint doesn't make your argument stronger."
"Sometimes you are wrong."
"Potato chips are bad for you."

I just mentioned it the other day in slashdot. (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299799)

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2707959&cid=39248607 [slashdot.org] Since the late 1980s, the game theory, strategies to play iterated prisoner's dilemma etc have led to a fundamental understanding of how altruism and cooperation could evolve. Chapter 13, "Nice guys finish first" in The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins is a good starting point. But it is slightly dated, circa 1992. There are more recent materials too.
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