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Science

Humans Are Nicer Than We Think 372

Posted by samzenpus
from the doing-the-right-thing dept.
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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Humans Are Nicer Than We Think

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:34AM (#39299067)

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

  • In other news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zrbyte (1666979) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:37AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jones_supa (887896) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:44AM (#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.

      • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:58AM (#39299173) Journal

        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

        • by Dunbal (464142) *

          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 obvious

          • by malkavian (9512)

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

          • by golden age villain (1607173) on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:54AM (#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.
            • by Kjella (173770) on Friday March 09, 2012 @11:21AM (#39300927) Homepage

              You can make this argument both ways, the reason altruism doesn't take over either is because the egoist among altruists wins, assuming of course he's proficient enough in the cheating and deception. Imagine for example a group of hunters. A group of egoists can easily starve one by one as they randomly starve. A group of altruists share their food, but it doesn't prevent famine. The egoist among altruists who keeps a little extra for himself survives, turning selection back towards egoism again. It's not like one is dominant over the other, it's a mix that keeps getting tweaked.

        • by Iskender (1040286) on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:30AM (#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.

        • by olau (314197) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:03AM (#39299691) Homepage

          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 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by silentcoder (1241496) on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:50AM (#39299411) Homepage

        >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 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sique (173459) on Friday March 09, 2012 @08:13AM (#39299489) Homepage

        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.

        • by martas (1439879)
          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."
          • by Sique (173459)

            Is it really news (though it is labelled such), if you can speak the reports synchronically?

            (And yes, I know Soviet news - the only thing that changed was the name of the kolkhoz or the zavod, it was reporting about. We sometimes joked that there were never problems in the Soviet union, but their successful overcoming.)

            • by martas (1439879)

              We sometimes joked that there were never problems in the Soviet union, but their successful overcoming.

              Hah! I'd forgotten this one, thanks for reminding me. And I wasn't disagreeing with you or anything -- what news should be is similar to max self-information in the Shannon sense.

              Still I'm surprised, from what you said I'm guessing you actually hail from those parts, which I don't think is very common for /.. I myself am too young to remember anything before the collapse, but I learned everything I ever want to know about what it was like from my parents...

      • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday March 09, 2012 @08:23AM (#39299531) Journal

        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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:38AM (#39299081)

    to publish the study freely :-))

  • by kahizonaki (1226692) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:39AM (#39299083) Homepage
    Is that his stage name? What a badass name though, seriously.
  • Perhaps.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stms (1132653) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:39AM (#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.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:25AM (#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.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JoeMerchant (803320) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:11AM (#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.

  • by Simon Rowe (1206316) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:43AM (#39299105)
    They can rip each other to shreds if the mood takes them.
  • In person? yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:46AM (#39299117) Homepage

    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.

    • by Anonymous Coward

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

    • A large part of our being nice relies on laws.

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

    • by olau (314197)

      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.

  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:50AM (#39299143) Homepage

    This is outrageous. Who do these scientists think they are?

    New Yorkers are humans, too!

  • 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.
  • 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)

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:19AM (#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.

      • by ledow (319597) on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:27AM (#39299299) Homepage

        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.

        • I agree with much of your post, except that. At some point in the past, evolution would have been random (possibly at the early single-cell level). But, as complexity increases, evolution will increasingly result in differentiation; the "pattern of least resistance to survival" varies enormously, from fish that produce millions of eggs with near-zero survival probability to human beings (or albatrosses) with their increasing focus on the maximum survivability of a minimum number of offspring, and from herd
  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Evtim (1022085) on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:01AM (#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.

    • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:12AM (#39299239) Journal

      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.

      • by alphatel (1450715) *
        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!
    • by phayes (202222)

      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 f

    • 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]

    • 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.

      • by biodata (1981610)
        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.
        • by Viol8 (599362)

          Well if according to those experiments everyone is a sociopath then the definition is meaningless and the whole argument moot.

  • 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.

  • 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*

  • 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 fig
  • "between the body and moral decision-making processes"? Where exactly do they think the moral decision-making processes are located?
  • Most Massachusetts drivers would probably disagree with you.
  • by elucido (870205) on Friday March 09, 2012 @08:00AM (#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.

    • 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.

      These two experiments are cited a lot, but the science level is poor. They don't prove anything. There are many interpretations of what happened. Neither were a double-blind experiment, and as far as I can tell, there was no control group, or any attempt to account for various factors. This shouldn't be surprising since the field IS sociology, which is notorious for bad experiments. In one attempt at reproduction of the Milgram experiment, the researchers informed the participants of what was happening, and

  • by Richard Kirk (535523) on Friday March 09, 2012 @08:34AM (#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.

    • by MiniMike (234881)

      Come on, be creative:

      4)

      Throw the fish and bait in the river to distract the crocodile.

      5)

      Wait until the crocodile gets close to the boat, and bash it on the head with an oar.

      6)

      Wait until the crocodile gets close to the boat, and push the fat guy onto it, killing the crocodile.

  • But I don't eat the brains, that'd be wrong.

  • 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'.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:04AM (#39299697) Homepage

    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.

  • 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 d

  • 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."

  • 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.
    • Well, nice guys that retaliate, if you're going by the Dawkins example, hehe. I.E - I'll play nice, and I'll even forgive the first slight, but if you keep screwing me over, you're getting screwed right back. Technically, it's not "better", but leads to evolutionary equilibrium. Unfortunately, total evil also leads to evolutionary equilibrium as he pointed out.

      It's not good versus evil... but "mostly good" versus evil.

  • Who are always saying fundemental morality comes from God and nonbelievers are all evil types itching to go on crime sprees.
    • by trongey (21550)

      No, many religious types believe that all people are evil types itching to go on crime sprees. You may have heard it referred to as "original sin".
      The fundamental purpose of religion is to keep people nice enough that we don't exterminate ourselves. (Unfortunately, it also turns out to be a great way to manipulate large groups for selfish purposes). If you read the Old Testament laws (mostly in Leviticus, re-explained in Deuteronomy) you might notice a pattern. They're all aimed at preserving a stable so

  • "evidence for the link between the body and moral decision-making processes.""

    Yes, the body as a strong influence on my morals, but the personality too.

  • Pinker's book (Score:4, Informative)

    by sbjornda (199447) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (adnrojbs)> on Friday March 09, 2012 @11:17AM (#39300883)
    People interested in this topic may wish to read Steven Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. In my opinion Pinker does a more convincing job of documenting that violence has declined rather than why, but it's a fun read.

    --
    .nosig

  • by J'raxis (248192) on Friday March 09, 2012 @11:25AM (#39300963) Homepage

    I read about this theory [iraxi.us] years ago, which I've always found to be particularly interesting.

    tl;dr: Human beings are naturally nonviolent. 6-7,000 years ago, desertification in northern Africa caused the humans there to become desperate for food and resources, and thus violent in order to survive. These cultures in turn spread out over the entire world (obviously able to out-compete peaceful peoples). And now various cultural practices have continued teaching violent behavior to people generation after generation when there's no longer any such natural "need" for such violence.

  • The evolution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Baldrson (78598) * on Friday March 09, 2012 @12:02PM (#39301355) Homepage Journal
    The evolutionary pressure is pretty obvious: Even a scratch can become infected and serious fights do result in worse wounds than mere scratches. Furthermore, whether you're evolved for group promoting cultures (most of the world) or individual promoting cultures (pre-christian northern Europeans and most sexual species) a mere "fight" can escalate to mortal combat (war for groups and natural duel* for individuals). The stakes have to be pretty high to initiate these.

    *I use the term "natural duel" in a technical sense that excludes the artifices we have known as "duels" in civilization: Two individuals (males) in an open natural setting -- not in an arena or ring -- using everything at their disposal to hunt down and kill their rival. In the human case this includes the use of tools/weapons of their own making as well as strategy and improvisation.

  • ... but when you throw in a little greed and organizational hierarchy and chase it down with some tribalism and groupthink, we're still more likely to screw each other in the name of competition than cooperate in the name of the Common Good.

It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions. - Robert Bly

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