Ever wonder why some people have a tendency to be nice—even in situations where it costs them—while others are constantly out for themselves? Psychologists from Yale University have built a formal mathematical model, combining game theory with ideas from behavioral economics, to show how humans evolved to develop two distinct strategies for cooperation. And while some people lean towards selflessness, others are consistently selfish.
In the standard game theory set up, prisoner’s dilemma (explained in full in the video below), agents benefit most if they act selfishly and refuse to cooperate with their partner. The iconic set-up asks two people to imagine that they are prisoners from the same gang who have to decide whether or not to betray each other or stay silent (if one betrays the other, the betrayer benefits; if they both stay silent, they both benefit).
So, their model suggests that humans chose one of two modes to live by – selfish and cooperative. These are instinctual System 1 modes, taken quickly without thinking.
But if analytical, System 2 approaches are implemented, we see that cooperative people can be made to be selfish. But selfish people can not ever be made to be cooperative.
But it does seem to fit. A selfish person almost always is a hierarchical authoritarian with themselves at the top of the pyramid. They do not see it as selfish as much as watching out for the guy on the top.
They really lack the balance needed in a distributed world.
Image: Gage Skidmore