Study: Brains of Selfish People Immediately Seek to Exploit Others
The science behind selfish behavior has been revealed, and it's pretty disturbing.
Everyone wants to get ahead, but how we do that and to what extent says a lot about us. A recent study by the University of Pécs in Hungary shows the neuroscience behind people who are opportunistic, exploitative, and suspicious. Called “Machiavellians” by psychologists and “politicians” by most, this personality type is naturally bad at playing with others. Like Reese Witherspoon in the movie Election, these people will do anything to get ahead and have a callous disregard for other people’s feelings. The study shows in startling detail the inner workings of Machiavellians brains.
[W]hen you show calculating people what they expect — that you are ready to exploit their vulnerabilities for self-gain — there is no sign of surprise.
In the study, a group of people both low and high on the Machiavellian scale played a game with, unbeknownst to them, a computer. The computer sometimes played fairly and sometimes did not, but when it was playing fairly, the Machiavellian brain lit up in key areas. Researchers say as soon as someone demonstrates fairness — in this case, a confederate computer — Machiavellians start finding ways to exploit it.
Andrew Cohen says narcissism is a culturally conditioned epidemic. How is it harmful and how can we break out of it?
Machiavellians, however, tend to see the worst in people, presuming that everyone acts purely out of self-interest. What is interesting, then, is that when you show calculating people what they expect — that you are ready to exploit their vulnerabilities for self-gain — there is no sign of surprise. When you respond to their selfish behavior with kindness, their brains immediately start planning how to best take advantage of you. They are, in fact, selfish jerks.
Researchers say as soon as someone demonstrates fairness — in this case, a confederate computer — Machiavellians start finding ways to exploit it.
While personality types such as these are certainly disturbing, perhaps with greater research we can begin to understand the why and also how to help Machiavellians be more humane. Either that, or they will end up alone in a mansion murmuring “rosebud” a la Citizen Kane.
Lori Chandler is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, NY, which is the most unoriginal sentence she has ever written. You can look at her silly drawings on Tumblr, Rad Drawings, or read her silly tweets @LilBoodleChild. Enough about her, she says: how are you?
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Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
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- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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