Why Are People "Irrationally" Generous to Strangers?

New research finds that nice guys tend to finish first.

Here’s a puzzle. Take the dictator game. It's a one-shot two-player anonymous experimental game. The dictator is given a sum of money, say, $10. She may keep it all or give some amount to the responder. Strict economic rationality suggests that the dictator would choose to keep it all. Evolutionary psychology concurs: Why give resources to a complete stranger?

It turns out, however, that many dictators actually give some portion of the money to the anonymous stranger. Reviewing the literature on dictator game experiments, the modal amount left by dictators for responders hovers around 30 percent [PDF]. Why are dictators generous to someone that they will never meet or interact with again?

A new study [PDF] in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by University of California, Santa Barbara evolutionary psychologists Andrew Delton, Max Krasnow, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby suggests that human generosity evolved as a response to having to make cooperative decisions in the face of social uncertainty. Specifically, the uncertainty about whether or not any interaction is a one-shot deal or could be repeated in the future.

As the U.C. Santa Barbara researchers note, the results of experiments like the dictator game not only “violate standard theories drawn from economics, but they also violated the predictions of widely accepted models of fitness maximization in evolutionary biology—models that (in the absence of kinship) similarly predict selfishness. Natural selection is relentlessly utilitarian, and is expected to replace designs that unnecessarily give up resources without return with those that retain those resources for enhanced reproduction or kin-directed investment.” On the face of it, natural selection should weed out nice guys.

In recent years, various anthropologists and economists have suggested that group selection could explain the apparent paradox of human prosociality. This new study argues that group selection theory is not necessary.

To probe the puzzle of apparent excessive human generosity to strangers, the researchers ran computer simulations in which agents interacted with one another over 10,000 generations. The agents were set up to evolve over time. The agents that evolved more effective strategies (gained greater resources) in dealing with other agents left more descendants as the simulation played out. The key insight is that to behave differently in one-shot versus repeated interactions necessarily requires the capacity to distinguish between the two situations. In fact, agents are always uncertain about whether an interaction is one-time or might be repeated. Inside the simulation, this uncertainty has profound effects on how agents decided to interact with strangers.

An agent can make two different errors. He can mistakenly assume the interaction will be repeated and bear the risk of being exploited in a one-shot interaction. Or he can exploit a stranger when he mistakenly assumes that the interaction is a one-shot and risk losing greater benefits that would have accrued over the long term in what turns out to be repeated interactions. The experimenters note, “If the two errors inflict costs of different magnitudes, selection will favor a betting strategy that buys a reduction in the more expensive error type with an increase in the cheaper type.” The more costly error is generally to assume that you will not have repeated interactions with another agent. Thus, the researchers find, “These asymmetric costs evolutionarily skew decision-making thresholds in favor of cooperation; as a result, fitter strategies will cooperate ‘irrationally’ even when given strong evidence that they are in one-shot interactions.” In a press release, Cosmides explained, “Without knowing why, the mind is skewed to be generous to make sure we find and cement all those valuable, long-term relationships."

The U.C. Santa Barbara experimenters ran two types of simulations. In one, the agents obtain information about the probabilities that they are facing a one-shot or repeated interaction with another agent. In one such run, if an agent believes that she is facing a one-shot interaction there is only a 16 percent chance that she is wrong. In this version of the simulation, the average length of repeated interactions, when they occur, is a relatively short 5 to 10 rounds. In this case, “agents with a one-shot belief nonetheless evolve to cooperate a remarkable 87 to 96 percent of the time, respectively." Lower the probability that an agent is wrong about an interaction being one-shot to just 7 percent, combined with an average of 10 interactions, and cooperation will still evolve among agents with a one-shot belief 47 percent of the time.

In another version of the simulation, agents conformed to the rule: defect if you believe that the interaction is one-shot; otherwise, cooperate. However, they were allowed to evolve thresholds of evidence for deciding when an interaction is likely to be repeated. Because of the higher costs associated with being wrong about repeated interactions, the agents tended to err on the side of caution, and evolved belief thresholds that led them to cooperate about 60 percent of the time when their interaction is actually one-shot. On the flip side, these cautious belief thresholds meant that they ended up defecting only one percent of the time when their interaction was repeated.

Other research shows that concern about reputation also helps to motivate people to behave cooperatively. The U.C. Santa Barbara researchers speculate, “If defection damages one’s reputation among third parties, thereby precluding cooperation with others aside from one’s current partner, defection would be selected against far more strongly.” John Tooby, in a press release, asserts that his group’s research supports the happy conclusion, “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." In other words, being nice is a winning strategy when it comes to economics and evolution. 

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  • Achtung Coma Baby||

    +1 for having a title that will instantly trigger anti-libertarian hysterics in PZ Myers.

  •  ||

    Who is PZ Myers, and why should anyone care?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Uh, isn't that any title?

  • ||

    Persecution complex?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Delusions of adequacy.

  • ||

    I wasn't talking about Myers.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I was talking about Myers.

  • HAHAHA||

    Take that you fucking Ayn Rand nigger lovers

  • plumber millbrae||

    Fantastic!

  • ||

    Well, I am an ugly fat f*ck and I give strippers...uh, I mean exotic modern dance girls good tips in the hopeless hope that they will f*ck me silly.
    Hasn't happened yet, but if i keep doing it, its just gotta...

  • Achtung Coma Baby||

    Ever considered the possibility that fucking you has an immediate, negative consequence that far outweighs the benefits of receiving tips?

    Just a though. I'm sure you're handsome.

  • ||

    Had a boss once who fit the description you give of yourself. The guy was swimming in pussy all the time. It was the talk of the company, and a complete mystery to everyone.
    Ran into him the other day after not seeing him for two years. He has a new wife half his age.

  • Southernbelle||

    The guy was swimming in pussy all the time. It was the talk of the company

    Oh my, fiddle dee dee!

  • mng||

    Who can know why the Right doesn't attract more support from the female community with gems like this?

  • ||

    If you think this site is right-wing, then you're so fucking stupid that I assume the only women/men you're allowed to date have an extra chromosome.

  • ||

    This is the new "dumbest thing MNG ever said" from today's Morning Links. I don't care if he lives or dies, but I will admit the guy works mighty hard at being stupid.

  • ||

    Ah, I see...a "tractor pull" moment.

  • MNG||

    Yeah, it's really stupid to expect that blacks coming to a libertarian site and finding jokes like the one in question would be turned off to the movement the site is ostensibly dedicated to and its adherents. That is so out there SF...

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Maybe they have a hard time shaking off the programming they receive from Team Blue, MNG.

  • Mr. Obvious||

    We mustn't hurt anyone's tender sensibilities. There might be panic and fist-shaking.

  • MNG||

    Yes, the most sure way to winning people over is to not care what they think.

  • ||

    Huh? Who said anything about blacks?
    I made the mistake of assuming this was an intellectually honest, adult discussion.
    I apologize to all those with delicate sensibilities who were offended, and I will expound on th...that.......greatly.......if it doesnt ........put me to..........zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • ||

    Who can know?
    Besides, who said I was on or advocating for the right? Hmmmm. Was it Groucho who said " I would never join a club that would have me as a member."?

  • ||

    Your problem has nothing to do with "I am an ugly fat f*ck". Your problem is "strippers...uh, I mean exotic modern dance girls".( They are mostly lesbian con artists)
    Try meeting someone in the bookstore or grocery store, or join a club.
    Or, I guess you could get an overcoat and hang out at the bus station.

  • ||

    The strippers I knew and know are wonderful con artists. Full of smiles and charm, they will rob you blind if given the chance. I still like hanging out with 'em, but I keep that in mind.

  • David Wu||

    A tip, fresno dan... if you ever get elected to public office, don't do what I did.

  • yonemoto||

    Iterated Prisoner's dilemma, Yawn.

  • ||

    y: Yes, but with uncertainty dealt with thru Bayesian updating. Really should read the paper.

  •  ||

    Reading is hard.

  • Restoras||

    Thanks for the link - something to read on the train ride home tonight.

  • yonemoto||

    Bayesianism : the abuse of priors by failure to reflect on the stupidity of the self. This time it's different!

  • yonemoto||

    Really should read the paper.

    the assumption there was that I read the article, too. Nope, sorry, NCBI rofl was funnier today, so, that's where I spent my downtime in lab.

  • asdf||

    Thanks for the comments on an article you didn't read, seriously, thank you.

  • Old Mexican||

    Why Are People "Irrationally" Generous to Strangers?


    Is Ron Bailey doing a "Tony" now?

    Purposeful action is NOT irrational.

    Here’s a puzzle. Take the dictator game. [...]The dictator is given a sum of money, say, $10. She may keep it all or give some amount to the responder. Strict economic rationality suggests that the dictator would choose to keep it all.


    Exactly what is this "strict economic rationality"?

    I am beginning to suspect that the belief in "economic rationality" as espoused by the premise of the experiment IS irrational in itself.

    Evolutionary psychology concurs: Why give resources to a complete stranger?


    And so is "evolutionary psychology" equally irrational.

    Haven't you guys ever heard of profit? And NO, "profit" is not simply pecuniary gain. In economics, it is a PSYCHIC GAIN. A person CAN PROFIT FROM GIVING A NUMBER OF RESOURCES TO A PERFECT STRANGER.

    Jeez, this is like looking at eggheads discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

  • Achtung Coma Baby||

    Aren't the quotation marks indicative of the inappropriateness of the use of the word?

  • Achtung Coma Baby||

    And isn't the discovery of the rational nature of seemingly "irrational" behavior a hallmark of game theory analysis?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Achtung Coma Baby,

    And isn't the discovery of the rational nature of seemingly "irrational" behavior a hallmark of game theory analysis?


    Not really. Game theory helps explain decision making, but decision making itself is ALWAYS rational (otherwise it would not be a decision! Ha ha!)

  • MAXXX||

    "but decision making itself is ALWAYS rational"

    So you think Breivik's decision to shoot up a bunch of kids was rational?

  • ||

    The decisions are rational to the person making the decision. I know you're slow but try and keep up.

  • Barack Obama||

    I'm taking notes here, just in case I get that second term.

  • yonemoto||

    I don't know, sometimes when I play poker I use the random number generator that Google installed in my brain. That way nobody ever knows if I'm bluffing, slow-playing, or playing it straight.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MAXXX,

    So you think Breivik's decision to shoot up a bunch of kids was rational?


    Totally rational. What it was not was moral. Clearly, his purpose was despicable, horrendous and criminal.

    Don't confuse rationality with morality, they're different concepts; there's a reason we cannot make a moral judgment on what animals or plants do, but we can say their "actions" are totally irrational.

  • roystgnr||

    What a weird definition of rational you have. Any purposeful goal-oriented action is rational, regardless of how effective the action really is or how self-consistent the goals are?

    We might as well close all the engineering schools now; I'm sure whatever design decisions the next generation make will still be completely rational, just like my decision to close the schools is.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: roystgnr,

    Any purposeful goal-oriented action is rational, regardless of how effective the action really is or how self-consistent the goals are?


    You're confusing the result with the decision. A person may decide to go to town A through bridge B and then the bridge collapses under him - would you say THEN that the decision of taking the bridge was "irrational"?

    DECISION making is always rational, otherwise it would NOT be a decision, it would be a reaction to stimuli, like in an animal or a plant.

  •  ||

    No. Sometimes they indicate quoted material. Hope this helps.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Achtung Coma Baby,

    Aren't the quotation marks indicative of the inappropriateness of the use of the word?


    Can't a guy show some simulated outrage here without some party pooper coming along? Jeez!

    Yes, I know that Ron points out the badly-used term. The problem is with the premise behind the studies, that generosity can be "excessive" or unprofitable (or not strictly rational in the economic sense, whatever that means) and thus subject of intensive research.

  • Richard Johnson||

    Thanks for the bolding and ALL CAPS. I'm hard of hearing so that just helps out so much.

  • jacob||

    OM, the assumption of these 'intellects' is that economic gain is legalized theft, taxation is altruism. Freedom is slavery.

  • ||

    You know, this blog just stumbled on the flaw in Keynesian economics (if I'm not being too serious, given the entries around this). It assumes rationality in our economic decisions. But who would tip strippers for a f**king that won't happen? We are not rational beings, so how can our economic behavoir be controlled by economic rules and fiscal tools? It shows another side of the argument for freedom; like democracy, its the worst form of law except everything else that's been tried.

  • Restoras||

    This book explores a lot of these concepts - I highly recommend it.

  • ||

    STEVE SMITH UNDERSTAND, AS STEVE IRRATIONALLY GENEROUS WITH RAPE! STEVE WOULD GIVE RAPE TO EVERYONE IF STEVE COULD!

  •  ||

    Yawn.

  • STEVE SMITH||

    STEVE SMITH RAPE YOU LAST! YOU NOT IRRATIONALLY GENEROUS WITH RAPE!

  • ||

    STEVE SMITH MAKE PUPPETS DANCE! DANCE RAPE PUPPETS!

  •  ||

    Yawn.

  • .||

    Rape.

  • Old Mexican||

    To probe the puzzle of apparent excessive human generosity to strangers[...]


    What's "excessive"? Who decided on the limit beyond which an action is to be considered "excessive," and why should anybody take that limit as binding? To whom is it apparent - the sanctimonius ans self-righteous assholes conducting the experiment, perhaps???

    This is UTTERLY ridiculous. It's like neo-classical economists trying to prove that people suffer from "imperfect information" because they buy pet rocks.

  • Old Mex||

    Me no go college.

  • Old Mexican||

    Gee, nice comeback, asshole.

  • Tony||

    You are capable of figuring out what these terms mean to the people who use them. It's excessive relative to what a strictly numbers game would seem to predict. But life is more complicated, which is the point. Increasing human understanding is a good thing!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Life is *unnecessarily* complicated, Tony, by the actions of Team Red and Team Blue, who only see answers in either taxes, more regulation, new and exciting laws, or just plain old-fashioned finger-wagging and other admonishments.

    We've gone from "just say 'no' to drugs" to "eat your peas and rip off the Band-Aids", and the fuckers STILL aren't done fucking with our lives.

    I know, it's going in one eye and out the other. You're a lost cause. But it's still fun to watch you defend micromanagement, treating grown adults like toddlers, and social fucking engineering just so it can be said "well, we did it for the children" or some other shit excuse.

    If it isn't the right telling you you can't get married to your boyfriend, it's your leftist buddies telling you you can't smoke while you're having sex with your boyfriend, and you have to wear seat belts or you'll get a ticket on your way to dinner somewhere where you can't have too much salt or trans-fats in the food you're buying.

    But, hey... it's for the children.

  • Tony||

    Well your worldview can't account for children even existing.

    They're small, helpless beings subject entirely to the whims of luck, and when they grow up underprivileged you'll blame them for not being rational businesspeople when they were toddlers.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Uh... sure. That's exactly what I meant. Ya got me, Shamus! How'd ya tumble ont'a my con-job? Was it the trail of bread crumbs?

    Jesus.

  • Tony||

    You're the one who said children were "an excuse," as if they didn't matter to policy discussions.

    Of course, I don't even understand why adults are supposed to all be successful businesspeople before they're allowed to live a decent life. Never understood where that was written.

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    Tony, don't presume to give an account of other peoples' beliefs. You clearly suck at it.

  • lol wut?||

    Well your worldview can't account for children even existing.

    Damn you are full of stupid.

    Ok, fine. You're right. FIFY lives in Bizarro Never Never Land where there are no children and women give birth to full sized adults.

    They're small, helpless beings subject entirely to the whims of luck, and when they grow up underprivileged you'll blame them for not being rational businesspeople when they were toddlers.

    That's life, Tony. Or would you prefer outlawing birth defects? Perhaps, you'd force parents to obtain a birthing license so no child ever grows up underprivileged? Maybe you would force us all to have test tube babies in an attempt to create social justice in the womb?

    Not to miss your brainless point. Politicians always use children or safety as a weapon to push legislation. So to say someone hates the children because they oppose legislation which requires the threat of violence to obtain specific funding, is ignorant at best and downright evil at worst.

    You've obviously never seen government ran foster care either. Dipshit.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    You are capable of figuring out what these terms mean to the people who use them.


    Sure, but why would it matter? Would it matter to you to know why I would say "Tony, dear, you have too many pants!"? Would it help you decide on the number of pants you should have?

    What I am trying to tell you, in case you haven't figured out, is that when people use these terms like "excessive," they're not doing anything else except externalizing their OPINION.

    It's excessive relative to what a strictly numbers game would seem to predict.


    Which sounds a lot like moving the goal posts, Tony.

    "Oh, my model says X, so people should do X, otherwise they're all boobs!"

    Sounds rational to you?

    But life is more complicated, which is the point.


    Duh - we don't need self-righteous assholes like those investigators to tell us that, Tony.

  • Tony||

    I don't think I could describe a greater amount of self-righteousness than the attitude you're presenting here. If you think you already know all that you need to know, you're wrong. You can't even figure out what the definition of "rational" is.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    I don't think I could describe a greater amount of self-righteousness than the attitude you're presenting here.


    Ahh, how quaint - a Tu Quoque.

    If you think you already know all that you need to know, you're wrong.


    Ahh, how quaint - a strawman.

    You can't even figure out what the definition of "rational" is.


    But - don't tell me, don't tell me - only you can, right?

    Right?

  • Tony||

    You don't get to throw out names of logical fallacies and claim that no decision can be illogical at the same time.

  • Tony||

    Which is highly curious--you're the one constantly throwing out names of logical fallacies, so surely you must think there is a difference between a rational decision and an irrational one.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    so surely you must think there is a difference between a rational decision and an irrational one.


    I know the difference between a person incapable of grasping concepts and a sane one. Guess which one are you, person who believes decisions [decisions!!!] can be irrational.

    Perfunctory Contradiction, thy name is Stephen.

  • Tony||

    Who's Stephen? Decisions can result from rational or irrational consideration. Rational means "based in accordance with reason or logic."

  • Tncm||

    Again Tony, you display a total lack of ignorance in the field of economics.

    A "rational actor" is someone who uses means to achieve or attempt to achieve an end. Therefore, every human is economically rational even if their method of production is nonsensical.

    For example, you come on Reason and regurgitate far-left talking points in the hopes of achieving converts. You have means (the talking points and your debating "prowess") and you have ends (to make converts or just annoy people), but you are totally failing to meet any of your goals.

  • ||

    Folks "irrationally" is in quotes for a reason.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Ron Bailey,

    Folks "irrationally" is in quotes for a reason.


    We're just messing with ya, Ron! Shows that we love ya!

  •  ||

    Or that we really have no clue.

  • Almanian||

    Cause it's SCARY??!!

  • Joe M||

    Exactly. I thought the entire point of this post was to illustrate that understanding of what constitutes rationality is actually flawed, because the behavior, as surprising as it is to some, is actually rational when you fully understand its context.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Joe M,

    because the behavior, as surprising as it is to some, is actually rational when you fully understand its context.


    Actually, you're missing the point: What it shows is the utter failure of empirical science to explain human action. A prioristic, deductive reasoning would have given you the answer without wasting so much time and effort.

    It's simple: ALL PURPOSEFUL ACTION IS RATIONAL. Period. People expect a psychic gain from an exchange, and an exchange it is when you generously give something to a stranger: You are exchanging something you value LESS for something you value MORE, which is the feeling of fancying yourself a benefactor.

    If you're asking why people are generous because you believe that being generous is irrational, the problem lies with your premise, not with being generous.

    Why is purposeful action rational? Because there's reason behind committing effort to a goal. If you respond by saying that it is not true, then you would have to conclude that your OWN ACTION of saying it could be irrational and thus not valid - what we in discourse call "Perfunctory Contradiction."

  • don't wanna get beat up||

    But how and why did generosity, rather than shrewd self-inerest, acquire cachet?

  • yonemoto||

    how did shrewd self-interest get to be the academically accepted "default"?

  • don't wanna get beat up||

    Pragmatism?

  • ||

    Projection by borderline sociopathic academics?

  • Brett L||

    If shrewd selfishness is the state of nature, then generousity is a mark of civilization. It lets poor graduate students feel better about themselves because they would definitely share half of every dollar that didn't go to rent, beer, and food if they had a spare buck. Of course, it seems to some that the highest mark of the civilized person is to be generous with other peoples' resources.

  • Imp of the Perverse||

    +1

  • Joe M||

    I agree with what you're saying, and I'm not sure that what I originally wrote contradicts what you said. The point I was making was, the people doing the studying were surprised, because they didn't understand the reasoning behind the action, yet wrongly believed that irrational action was possible. I was having a somewhat similar discussion recently with a friend, who stated (correctly, I think) that all action is selfish, because everything is done for some sort of emotional, material, or spiritual gain.

  • BigT||

    Hence the virtue of selfishness.

  • Huy Bob||

    I suppose you're right that it's selfish since it's done for some kind of gain. But if both parties benefit, as well contribute to positive externalities, then it seems like an enlightened selfishness.

    And what is thought of as "pure altruism" where an individual organism sacrifices himself for others could be thought of as a kind of "selfishness" since the act might be for the good of the gene pool as a whole, which helps out his larger interest in his species and his descendants survival.

    However, do these ways of re-examining selfishness amount to redefining the term?

  • Tony||

    Appeal to nature.

  • ||

    While we are on the subject. Can I borrow $20.00?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    You'd just blow it on moon pies and penny whistles.

  • yonemoto||

    No. Because you asked to borrow it, so your request is clearly in bad faith. If you had just asked for it I might have considered. Also, there's no way for me to guarantee it will actually get to you. Not acting in strict self-interest doesn't mean stupidity.

  • Liberta||

    How would we reason without empirical data to develop logic? "A priori" knowledge does not exist. You forget that it took humanity a very long time indeed to understand logic & cause & effect. Previously it was understood only implicitly, and an anthropomorphic nature (gods, spirits) explained the rest.

  • MNG||

    "ALL PURPOSEFUL ACTION IS RATIONAL."

    So is it a tautology? How useful is that? You either have a concept of rational against which actual human behavior can be tested or you define everything that every human does as "rational" therefore making the word pretty meaningless...WTF?

    "If you respond by saying that it is not true, then you would have to conclude that your OWN ACTION of saying it could be irrational and thus not valid"

    That's certainly not true...One can claim that people are at times irrational without declaring that they are always so. Your argument only works if one claims that people are always irrational (only then would that very claim be, if true, in itself, irrational).

  • yonemoto||

    MNG an equivalence between two concepts that have potentially different derivations is not necessarily a tautology, and can actually be quite deep, for example, Zorn's lemma and the axiom of choice.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    You either have a concept of rational against which actual human behavior can be tested or you define everything that every human does as "rational" therefore making the word pretty meaningless...WTF?


    You're equivocating, MNG. What you're talking about is judging decisions based on results as YOU perceive them. You may and can say that a decision was not wise or it was; or, that it was not moral, or it was. But you cannot say a person was being irrational simply because decisions cannot be irrational, otherwise they would NOT BE DECISIONS. They would be instead reactions to stimuli (as in an animal or a plant) which are not rational at all.

    One can claim that people are at times irrational without declaring that they are always so.


    But you're confusing concepts, MNG. We're talking about actions, not arguments or the purpose itself. By "irrational" one would have to mean that there was no thought behind an action at all (which would make it a reaction, not a purposeful action). People's actions are always rational as they have purpose.

    If instead you're talking about judging the purpose, that's an entirely different matter as that would fall under the realm of ethics.

  • Tncm||

    We see, then, that what MNG has "disproved" is not methodological individualism itself but a poorly understood, borderline straw man version of methodological individualism.

  • wildbillnj||

    My question is undeniably dumb. I beg forgiveness in advance.

    If you decide to pursue some action which is *guaranteed* not to achieve the result you desire, is the action still rational? This would not be judging the results after the fact; I'm talking about something that provably cannot provide the desired results. For example, in a one-deck game of blackjack, hitting on 20 when you know all four aces have already been played.

    Sort of like the old axiom, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

  • ||

    Joe M -
    I once drove out into the middle of nowhere for recreational target shooting. As I was leaving I passed a guy whose car had broken down, a complete stranger. Apparently he had not tightened the oil plug the last time he changed the oil and it had all run out. I just happened to have had a case of oil in my trunk. I gave him five quarts and refused compensation. I told him if he ever saw me broken down he could return the favor. He seemed surprised.
    20 years later I took a date to Red Dirt reserve for a swim and a huge storm came up. When I put the key in the trunk to stow our gear, the damn thing broke off. I managed to jimmy the door and hot-wire the car, but the steering lock wouldnt release.
    Believe it or not, guess who hiked out of the woods at that very moment with his family. The very same one I had given the oil to. And, the guy was a mechanic. He remembered me. He got the steering lock released in ten seconds and we were on our way. He really saved my ass.
    You are correct, instinctively it seems rational to me.

  • Androcles||

    Catch ya later!

  • ||

    And...what Old Mexican said.

  • Joe M||

    That's a crazy coincidence and a great story.

  • rather||

    I love that story. Truth is stranger than fiction

  • Almanian||

    Where's that chick from McGill to tell us that we can't do this cause...nature...or something?

  • rather||

  • rather||

    Why dictators and other psychopaths are generous:
    Old school entertainers often refer to the sedulousness of Vegas mob casinos. In retrospect, they were psaphonically collimating their business while contemporarily engaging in violence
    An art not loss on dictators, who love to import the latest entertainment but that era is over too: it is hard to bring in the hookers, singers, and actors when the village mob is out to burn down the castle

    IOW, they are imitating the normal biological model; not unconsciously living it
    http://rctlfy.wordpress.com/20.....nt-refuse/

  • deja moo||

    "psaphonically collimating"? Does that mean anything?

  • rather||

    yes

  • deja moo||

    http://www.answers.com/topic/psaphonic

    If nobody but you understands it, you're not really communicating.

  • rather||

    50% of my traffic comes from outside NA. I doesn't seem to be a problem

  • Imp of the Perverse||

    This theory doesn't seem to translate to the internet, does it?

  • Joe M||

    Because it's all anonymous.

  • STEVE SMITH||

    Doesn't it? I've used lots of sites where people put up handy guides to doing something, without getting anything for it. People write useful reviews, including great tips and tricks, and if just about any profession or hobby has forums where you can quickly find people who will help you with just about anything you could imagine.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Joke name fail.

  • Aqua Buddha||

    STEVE SMITH's hobby is ass rape, so the response actually works.

  • Banjos||

    While reading it, I had an image in my of an angry sasquatch suddenly becoming calm, pulling a pipe out, sitting down and intelligently explaining something. Awesome. Best joke name fail ever.

  • Joe M||

    Yeah it worked for me too.

  • ||

    I did my first engine swap with nothing but a book. And some help on from a car forum for the really stupid questions. It fired up on the first turn of the key.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    This theory doesn't seem to translate to the internet, does it?

    Unless you don't count Wiki-fuckin'-pedia.

  • yonemoto||

    Linux, Apache, etc...

  • robc||

    homebrew forums.

  • Alex_Votocracy||

    It seems like controversy is swirling around all politicians these days...Why not change that? http://bit.ly/pJWViG If you are interested in learning more visit our platform! http://bit.ly/Votocracy

  • ||

    SuperFreakonomics tackles this apparent "altruistic" tendency of humans.
    Turns out, it's a bunch of shit.
    For one, lab experiments are inherently biased as 1) people who volunteer for them tend to be concerned about science having a "social conscience," and 2) people tend to act more generously and less self-interested when they know they're being watched.
    Numerous other "dictator" games, ones studied in the real world, have confirmed this.

  • uh-huh||

    Whereas right-wing hacks with no credentials improve upon the scientific method by being on TV more.

  • ||

    What network do you appear on?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    What about the left-wing hacks? They're just as guilty and useless.

  • Trespassers W||

    people tend to act more generously and less self-interested when they know they're being watched

    That's bullshit in my case. I've done some awesome acts of generosity that no one even knows about. For example, I once donated WAIT A MINUTE I AIN'T SAYING ANOTHER GODDAMN THING.

  • ||

    I've seen studies that confirm it.

    There was one where people privately put money in an envelope, and then reported how much money they put in publicly.
    Turns out, many people put in less money then they said they did.

  • anarch||

    They were taking inflation into account.

  • hillsborough plumber||

    no need to be upset

  • TMF||

    There is a study where a picure of eyes preventented theft while kitten's did less and word's did less but nothing was as bad as nothing...

  • Idiot Savant||

    Give strangers money so they won't kill us

  • ||

    or help us when we are in need.

    This is idiotic. Reciprocity has to start somewhere and we are creatures who have survived (and evolved) because of it.

    Also the dictator game is pretty lame. the money was a gift. It was not earned nor is the gift needed for survival.

    You may as well have given the dictator a bag of rocks and then tested if he gave away some of the rocks.

  • ||

    It would be interesting to set it up so that it has to be earned in some way, and then see what the responses are.

  • ||

    The dictator would hire the other guy then a socialist will come out of the wood work and start a class war.

  • Bernie Sanders||

    I'm kind of busy now, joshua, but I'd be glad to send one of my staff to help start the class war.

  • Barack Obama||

    Ixnay on the war-ay, Bernie.

    Patience, My minion. Your time will come.

  • MSNBC||

    Just give The Word, O our Lord, and we will obey.

  • Barack Obama||

    Tell Maddow I will kill her last.

  • Ed Schultz||

    Shit! *I* should be the last to die! I'm gonna torch this fuckin' place!

  • Wayne and Garth||

    We're not worthy! We're not worthy!

  • Lawrence O'Donnell||

    When will You kill me, O my Lord Obama?

    I just want to fit it into my schedule.

  • ||

    I've been wondering when someone will get around to doing an iterated dictator game.

    What happens, for example, if the dictator is randomly chosen? What if the player with the currently highest score gets to be the dictator with greater probability?

  • GILMORE||

    Yes... but...

    DISCLOSURES!!! MORE DISCLOSURES!!

    please. :)

  • ||

    FYI

    In a post scarcity world there will be no reciprocity.

  • A Serious Man||

    How so? The Silver Rule would still apply.

  • A Serious Man||

    So how does one explain people that run into burning buildings to save complete strangers? While some people just have an unshakeable moral code about helping others in need, it would seem that risking your life and your gene pool for a stranger is fundamentally irrational from an evolutionary standpoint.

  • space biologist||

    I hate the hell out of dawkins, but: selfish genes.

  • Rock Action ||

    Because nothing gold can stay?

  • ||

    Pony Boy would like a word.

  • John Edwards||

    I'm kinda busy, SugarFree.

  • Rock Action ||

    Considering HBO used to run Soul Man non-stop this one particular summer when I was a kid, I'd like an avenging word with Pony Boy myself.

    Can't afford to cry now, though.

  • TMF||

    we give meaning to our own life, economic be damned

  • ||

    My theory: Humans evolved in an environment where every other person in their immediate area, stranger or not, is potentially someone who is going to help them survive. Especially if the person is a healthy adult or a child who may soon be one.

    If your group is very small and living under harsh environmental conditions every living person, except perhaps the very old and infirm, is needed to help the group survive.

    Havn't you learned anything from zombie movies?

  • ||

    Fuck yeah I have. Stay away from hot chicks, never help the fat guy, and the shifty-eyed Hollywood type will eventually get his comin's.

  • Cold Side of Pillow||

    Dont forget teh childrenz!!

    Kill them before they kill you.

  • ||

    You fucking tit-turds, read SuperFreakonomics. The book covers all your lame protestations. There are "dictator" games rigged so that the money is EARNED before the game is played. Etc., etc., etc. ...

  • ||

    "So how does one explain people that run into burning buildings to save complete strangers?"

    Quick calculated risk is my guess, combined with the "fight or flight" urgency of proximity. I wonder how many people would volunteer to be blowtorched to death to save a child halfway around the Earth?
    Not only that, but the person who DOESN'T run into the building may possibly face the shame of others. And have to live with that shame and the death of a stranger he guesses he might have saved.

  • yonemoto||

    the person who DOESN'T run into the building may possibly face the shame of others.

    WTF?

  • ||

    More like, heroics = status. Status = access to sex.

    Ain't so complicated. A high-risk, socially esteemed job is a natural aphrodisiac. It's why so many women get all glassy-eyed over a nice pair of arms and some broad shoulders in dress blues.

  • enzyme||

    Unless there's no time to think about how it will look to other people; there are plenty of instances of people acting without time to reflect in emergency situations, simply because there was no time to reflect. This comes closest to examples of altruism that I can think of; but perhaps there's something wired into to act protectively in those emergency situations.

  • ||

    I'm not suggesting that the guy who rescues a child from a burning building is secretly only doing it to get laid. Like you said, a lot of people act on instinct in a situation like that. I'm suggesting the instinct itself is a product of natural selection. Risky altruism may have conferred some kind of reproductive advantage on our ancestors due to the whole heroics=status=sexytimes equation.

    Of course, evo-psych is a field notorious for its bullshit. So maybe not.

  • enzyme||

    hmm, interesting. This could be right, but then why isn't almost everyone committing heroic acts? Usually, other people just stand around but it's one guy that just acts, like that guy in New York a few years ago who jumped on the subway tracks to save someone while everyone else just gawked.

  • FlyoverCountry||

    Uh, pretty sure that was an episode of 30 Rock.

    Or maybe we just don't get your big city news out here in the sticks.

  • yonemoto||

    doesn't work for asians. Seriously. Nothing will get you laid.

  • ||

    And again:
    Lab experiments are fraught with flaws.
    A lab is a carefully controlled environment where the experiment is run in complete isolation (read: "without context") and its subjects may or may not exhibit the behavior they would in the real world.
    You dumbfucks understand any of that?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Piss off, elitist.

    Unless you can prove everyone on here is a "dumbfuck".

  • ||

    You dumbfucks understand any of that?

    Rarely, if ever, you beautiful mad bastard.

  • rather||

    I know somone who did every study because she needed the cash. We would LOAO about the lies she told

  • Brett L||

    This is why economics isn't science, right?

  • Paulie Krugnuts||

    But I have this Nobel, and... and... stuff!

  • Sam Grove||

    In other words, being nice is a winning strategy when it comes to economics and evolution.

    Because man is a social animal after all.

  • ||

    fuck, if human nature doesn't hew to the constructs for morality and altruism created by philosophers and pop psychologists, then our natural instincts are are irrational!

  • ||

    If anybody here has ever taken a shit in Chicago, be proud, because you doubled its worth. Libertarian generosity knows no bounds, if I may so myself!

  • asdf||

    It's karma, not in the spiritual sense, but it's essentially the same thing. They should run the reverse study where you go around fucking everyone over and see what happens.

    It IS in our self interest to be helpful. People remember, word spreads ect.

  • ||

    OK that makes a lot of sense

    www.web-privacy.au.tc

  • The News||

    Y'all are forgetting one thing: The Power of Love. When you are connected to others, you do things for them not because you are calculating a reward, but because you feel like they are an extension of yourself. Of course, it's not selflessness then. It's more like, extended egoism. Take it away, Huey.

  • scarpe Nike Store||

    is good

  • The Worst Christian in America||

    “Blessed are those who console, because they will be consoled," is iteration, like generosity, pointing to the eternal. Studies and theories that “are reasonable,” dourly attempt to explain away the ameliorations of heaven-oriented behavior. They will strain at the gnat and swallow the camel rather than consider the blessedly obvious, “It is better to give than to receive.” Even dictators know that on some level. Parents are dictators that will give their lives for their subjects, not just a dollar. This nigh painful attempt to stuff something as obvious and immense as the entire universe, and larger still, into a tawdry bag “behaviors,” is why I get only so close to the libertarian rationale before I shake my head and sigh.

  • jordan shoes||

    555

  • ||

    A stranger hit me up for some food at a shopping center. She said she was hungry, so I walked with her to McDonalds, where she ordered a 20-piece McNuggets, a shake, and fries, totalling $10. I felt like a sucker.

  • nike dunk||

    is good

  • ||

    There are eight levels of charity, each greater than the next.

    [1] The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Person by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others...

    [2] A lesser level of charity than this is to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from whom he received the gift. For this is performing a good deed solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the "anonymous fund" that was in the Holy Temple [in Jerusalem]. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator

    [3] A lesser level of charity than this is when one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to walk about in secret and put coins in the doors of the poor. It is worthy and truly good to do this if those who are responsible for distributing charity are not trustworthy (like Gov Bureaucrats).

    [4] A lesser level of charity than this is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to tie coins into their robes and throw them behind their backs, and the poor would come up and pick the coins out of their robes so that they would not be ashamed.

    [5] A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.

    [6] A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person after being asked.

    [7] A lesser level than this is when one gives inadequately, but gives gladly and with a smile.

    [8] A lesser level than this is when one gives unwillingly. (like taxes which are not really charity at all)

    8 levels of Charity by Moses Maimonides

  • ||

    Or, by a better known prophet who said:

    “sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven…(for)…It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

    Where in these words is the idea of involuntary giving mentioned? Where in there a mention of government action? In only the eighth form of giving, where Maimondes suggests “taxes are not really charity at all.“ And where is it written that this later prophet told Rome (government) to give to the poor?

    Have we not come to substitute welfare for charity? Have we not lost our path to heaven when we no longer “sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor”?

  • test||

  • ||

    Are you for REAL?
    Isn't this really nothing more than a lame excuse for the Libertarian "Purists" stance on pro-Amnesty and pro-immigration.
    I can't believe you would stoop so low!
    While I espouse many Libertarian beliefs, I part company with you on anti-war, and pro immigration.
    Two "biggies" in my belief system which you folks at Reason might want to revisit for a position up-date.
    Back when I was a proud, card-carrying, Libertarian I was made to understand that one of the few and very limited functions of the Federal was the protection of our Country's citizens and borders from assaults upon our Freedoms and those of our allies.
    In my estimation, the current Libertarian position of non-aggression/non-violence and pro-Amnesty/Immigration flies in the face of reason.

  • قبلة الوداع||

    thank u

  • قبلة الوداع||

    thank u

  • mbt zapatos||

    In my estimation, the current Libertarian position of non-aggression/non-violence and pro-Amnesty/Immigration flies in the face of reason.

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