How Much Are We Willing To Harm Others For Personal Gain?

Most of the time, psychology and behavioral economics research paints a grim picture of human motivation as fundamentally selfish and competitive. But one new study seems to suggest we might be a little more altruistic than we thought: Evolution may actually have favored those who learned to share resources and cooperate with others.

Psychologists from University College London and Oxford University designed an experiment to determine how much pain people were willing to inflict on themselves or strangers (anonymously) for money. They found that, in an experimental setting, most people would not choose personal financial gain if doing so required hurting others.

The researchers tested 160 subjects, randomly assigned to 80 pairs, with one participant in each pair assigned to the role of “receiver” and one assigned to the role of “decider.” The decider did not know the identity of the receiver, and vice versa. The subjects were each given mildly painful electric shocks, matched to their individual pain thresholds.

Then, the deciders went into a private room and took part in 150-160 trials, in which they chose between receiving different amounts of money for different numbers of shocks. For instance, they could give seven shocks —> Read More Here


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