We often think of playing fair as an altruistic behavior. We’re sacrificing our own potential gain to give others what they deserve. What could be more selfless than that? But new research from Northeastern University assistant professor of philosophy Rory Smead suggests another, darker origin behind the kindly act of fairness.
Smead studies spite. It’s a conundrum that evolutionary biologists and behavioral philosophers have been mulling over for decades, and it’s still relatively unclear why the seemingly pointless behavior sticks around. Technically speaking, spite is characterized as paying a cost to harm another. It yields virtually no positive outcome for the perpetrator. So why would evolution — which is supposed to weed out such behaviors — let spite stick around?
We hope we are not spoiling the suspense for you when we reveal that he shoehorns an “evolutionary”explanation out of the situation.
All the while admitting that such scenarios don’t match the complexity of real life. Good thing no one expected anything like that. 😉
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