The reason people act altruistically is well contested among academics. Some argue that people are innately selfish and the only way to override our greedy tendencies is to exercise self-control. Others are more positive, believing that humans naturally find generosity rewarding and that we only act selfishly when we pause to think about it. The Caltech model suggests that neither side fits all; both generosity and selfishness can be fast and effortless. But it depends on the person and the context.
“We take a very simple model of choice that’s been developed for predicting perceptual decisions–like whether a dot is moving left or right–and adapt it to capture generosity,” says lead author Cendri Hutcherson, who did the work as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology and now directs the Decision Neuroscience Lab at the University of Toronto. “With this simple model, we are able to explain a huge host of previously confusing patterns about how people make altruistic choices.” More.
Great. Can they put this in a can and market it to people who have a lot of trouble recruiting volunteers?
If these people can’t reverse the downward trend in volunteerism, forget them.
See also: An evolutionary challenge: explaining away compassion, philanthropy, and self-sacrifice
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