A study has been conducted as to whether the basic impulse of humanity is pro-social (benefiting a community at a cost to one’s self) or selfish. The scientists found that the quicker the person’s decision making the more likely they will make the pro-social choice. Conversely, when instructed to take more time, or when merely primed to do so, individuals were more likely to make a selfish choice. The paper’s conclusion is that we as a species are predisposed to help other people and only overcome that impulse with effort.
The original paper’s abstract is here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22996558
As a self avowed optimist and general believer in the overall decency of people, I find this immensely validating. It also helps me to maintain my faith in humanity, even when I look at cases coming through my office every night with people stealing, cheating, and beating one another to bloody pulps. It makes me think that there must be something about the circumstances these people live with that push them away from their natural inclinations to help others and hurt them instead.
Looks like Jeff Winger was wrong!
What do you think?