Friday, October 05, 2007

Rules for understanding people

Here are Four Rules to Understand What Makes People Tick: People Mostly Care About Themselves, People are Motivated by Selfish Altruism, People Don’t Think Much, Conformity is the Norm. It explains:
By studying primates, researchers noticed four main categories of selfish altruism. I believe they are the same categories we use, even if slightly more sophisticated:

1. Dominance -- Some primates will give help as a way of asserting dominance in the group. It is as if they are saying, "Look at how powerful I am that I can give some of my resources to help you."
2. Reciprocity -- You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. The idea is that I do a favor for you with the assumption it will be returned one day. If the cost to me is less than the benefit towards you, I might help you even if I can’t predict an immediate payback.
3. Trade -- If we both have something the other person wants, we have a reason to interact. While reciprocity is vague on the details of a payback, trade is direct.
4. Familial -- It makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective, to help those who might share your genes.

By looking through this lens of selfish altruism, you can better make decisions. Viewing people as completely uncaring or selfish is incomplete. But expecting people to think of you constantly and do nice things for free is dangerous.

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