Monday, August 8, 2011

Human Generosity, Is it Evolution ?

Sometimes we forget how primitive & driven by survival we truly are. Just imagine why would a person tip someone or help a person generously knowing they will never encounter them again? It is based in the dynamic of cooperation and survival. We seem to plan for our survival every step of the way. Giving generously to people across your path, even to ones you may never see again and without any expectation of gain could create a sense of safety and security in the human psyche. A self soothing calm that comes with a sense that survival is insured. That may explain why spiritual leaders who are about giving to others have an aura of peace.

Sciencedaily Aug. 1, 2011
Krasnow and Delton co-authored the paper with Leda Cosmides, professor of psychology and co-director of the Center for Evolutionary Psychology; and John Tooby, professor of anthropology and also co-director of the Center for Evolutionary Psychology.

"There are two errors a cooperating animal can make, and one is more costly than the other," noted Cosmides. "Believing that you will never meet this individual again, you might choose to benefit yourself at his expense -- only to find out later that the relationship could have been open-ended. If you make this error, you lose out on all the benefits you might have had from a long-term, perhaps life-long, cooperative relationship. This is an extraordinarily costly error to make. The other error is to mistakenly assume that you will have additional interactions with the other individual and therefore cooperate with him, only to find out later that it wasn't necessary. Although you were 'unnecessarily' nice in that one interaction, the cost of this error is relatively small. Without knowing why, the mind is skewed to be generous to make sure we find and cement all those valuable, long-term relationships."

The simulations, which are mathematical tools for studying how natural selection would have shaped our ancestors' decision making, show that, over a wide range of conditions, natural selection favors treating others as if the relationship will continue -- even when it is rational to believe the interaction is one-time only. "Although it's impossible to know the true state of the world with complete certainty, our simulated people were designed to use the 'gold-standard' for rational reasoning -- a process called Bayesian updating -- to make the best possible guesses about whether their interactions will continue or not," Krasnow noted.

Delton continued: "Nonetheless, even though their beliefs were as accurate as possible, our simulated people evolved to the point where they essentially ignored their beliefs and cooperated with others regardless. This happens even when almost 90 percent of the interactions in their social world are actually one-time rather than indefinitely continued."

According to Tooby, economic models of rationality and evolutionary models of fitness maximization both predict that humans should be designed to be selfish in one-time only situations. Yet, experimental work -- and everyday experience -- shows that humans are often surprisingly generous.

"So one of the outstanding problems in the behavioral sciences was why natural selection had not weeded out this pleasing but apparently self-handicapping behavioral tendency," Tooby said. "The paper shows how this feature of human behavior emerges logically out of the dynamics of cooperation, once an overlooked aspect of the problem -- the inherent uncertainty of social life -- is taken into account. People who help only when they can see a gain do worse than those who are motivated to be generous without always looking ahead to see what they might get in return."