RE: Altruistic Anger

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Fri 14 Feb 2003 - 13:09:05 GMT

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    Interesting piece.

    Isn't this a variant of tit for tat?


    > ----------
    > From: Keith Henson
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Friday, February 14, 2003 3:06 AM
    > To:
    > Subject: Altruistic Anger
    > This is related to human motivation, and motivation is important to which
    > memes get distributed or opposed. More about enforcing social behavior.
    > Keith
    > Anger and Punishment
    > Scientists Explain How Getting
    > Mad Can Lead to Good Will
    > By Amanda Onion
    > Jan. 9 Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and if they
    > don't do the same, punish them.
    > New findings suggest it may be time to expand the usual interpretations of
    > altruism. Rather than including just acts of generosity and goodness, the
    > term should also incorporate the concept of altruistic punishment, studies
    > show.
    > "The definition of altruism in biology doesn't have anything to do with
    > intentions," explained Samuel Bowles, an economist at the Santa Fe
    > Institute. "It has to do with bearing a burden that is costly to oneself,
    > but that benefits others."
    > Not only can punishment be altruistic, the new study demonstrates it's
    > also
    > critical for maintaining a healthy society.
    > "Most people think when you punish someone, you do it for your own
    > benefit," said David Sloan Wilson, a psychobiologist at the State
    > University of New York in Binghamton and author of the book Unto Others.
    > "But if the punishment helps the public, it's not selfish, but selfless."
    > Punishment Game
    > To prove that people are willing to undergo personal cost to punish
    > others,
    > Ernst Fehr of the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of
    > Zurich
    > and colleagues devised a financial game in which students were given 20
    > monetary units (about $23.95) and then told to either contribute their
    > resources to a communal pot, or keep the money at a cost to the group.
    > The more people gave to the communal pot, the more each member of the
    > group
    > reaped once the game was done. But if people refused to donate, the group
    > earned much less.
    > Then Fehr added a twist. Players were given the option of punishing those
    > who refused to donate to the pot. Each time a player issued a punishment
    > against another, the punished player was deprived of three monetary units
    > and the punisher was deprived of one.
    > Even though the punisher never played with the same people twice and so
    > could not hope to benefit later more than 80 percent of the students
    > opted to sacrifice one of their own units to punish stingy players.
    > The punishment worked: Those punished contributed more money in later
    > games. And the series of games that included the option to punish ended up
    > earning group members much more money than those who had no punishment
    > option.
    > Altruistic Punishment at Work, in War
    > Evidence of altruistic punishment is also pervasive in the real world,
    > says
    > Fehr, including among work groups.
    > "Free-riders who pretend to be ill although they could in fact work are
    > typically informally sanctioned by the other members of the work team,"
    > said Fehr, who published the results of his study in this week's issue of
    > the journal Nature.
    > The current war against terrorism can also be explained, at least partly,
    > by altruistic punishment.
    > Dustin Hammond of Park Forest, Ill., for example, recently decided to meet
    > with Air Force recruiters in the months following the Sept. 11 attacks.
    > Even though the chances are slim that terrorists might attack his small
    > hometown or that of his family members, Hammond was driven to risk his
    > life
    > to take part in the military efforts against terrorism.
    > "I'd like to serve my country. That tragedy really aggravated me," he told
    > the Chicago Tribune.
    > Most might find it easy to understand Hammond's motivations. But it's the
    > kind of behavior that has flummoxed biologists for decades.
    > "It's always been a puzzle," said Wilson. "Why would a person decrease
    > their own fitness for the fitness of others?"
    > Selfless Anger
    > Some theories have suggested there can be selfish motivations for
    > altruistic acts. Sacrificing for family, for example, can still advance an
    > altruist's genes since family members share gene lines. Another theory,
    > known as reciprocal altruism or "tit for tat," suggests that people help
    > others because they expect to receive help in return.
    > Neither of those explanations can explain why players elected to punish
    > others in the Fehr experiment.
    > Instead, the Fehr study and others show that the presence of altruists in
    > a
    > group increases the overall fitness of the group no matter the
    > consequence to the individual so altruistic acts can make evolutionary
    > sense.
    > And, unlike most altruism, altruistic punishment is inspired less by good
    > will than by a factor that biologists have so far rarely considered:
    > anger.
    > "Not everyone is public-spirited you might or might not be motivated to
    > help a group," said Wilson. "But when you see a cheater, you get mad. And
    > anger is what recruits this separate group of altruistic punishers."
    > ===============================================================
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