More on “Selfish” Altruism

The other thread is still open, but I was just interested when I saw this at Lifehacker. A brief recap of sorts-I don’t think there’s anything that wasn’t mentioned in the post/comments(go down), but this is obviously clearer and more concise. And in any case, the article is worth a read.

Four Rules to Understand What Makes People Tick – Stepcase Lifehack

Rule Two: People are Motivated by Selfish Altruism

To say all behavior is strictly selfish would be misleading. It fails to account for acts of charity, ethics and why people don’t just cheat, swindle and lie all the time. Selfish altruism is a broader category that covers why people do nice things as a way to get what they want.

By studying primates, researchers noticed four main categories of selfish altruism. I believe they are the same categories we use, even if slightly more sophisticated:

1. Dominance – Some primates will give help as a way of asserting dominance in the group. It is as if they are saying, “Look at how powerful I am that I can give some of my resources to help you.”
2. Reciprocity – You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. The idea is that I do a favor for you with the assumption it will be returned one day. If the cost to me is less than the benefit towards you, I might help you even if I can’t predict an immediate payback.
3. Trade – If we both have something the other person wants, we have a reason to interact. While reciprocity is vague on the details of a payback, trade is direct.
4. Familial – It makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective, to help those who might share your genes.

By looking through this lens of selfish altruism, you can better make decisions. Viewing people as completely uncaring or selfish is incomplete. But expecting people to think of you constantly and do nice things for free is dangerous.

If you go through the comments, you might find that some people had the same problem I had:

I could not disagree with this any more than I already do. None of this theory truly explains the phenomenon of minds such as Martin Luther King Jr. Absolutely he was protesting actively for his rights, but he was doing it more so for other people than himself.There are a significant number of people in society that place other’s injustices before their own worries.

And a few more. Again, no definite answers, apart from these little anecdotes.

Promised to myself, I’d study a bit, but don’t feel like it. As usual. What I really want is to be perfectly healthy, without this dripping nose and splitting headaches every time I bend down. Oh, and some Scotch. And tickets for The Dark Knight on saturday afternoon. And for lab to be canceled tomorrow . And a bunch of other things I really can’t post here.

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