Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Quick - I need your help. . ."

Latest research shows that when we think too much, we're less likely to lend a hand, or a dollar, or anything that might help out someone else. Here's the reference from Ars Technica:

Cooperation works best when no one has time to think. If you need someone's cooperation, don't over-explain why you need their help. At least, that's the takeaway from new research conducted by Harvard University scientists. Through ten studies on the cognitive basis of cooperation, the researchers hoped to shed light on the fundamental question of whether humans are innately helpful or selfish. Would having time to explain the necessity of cooperation increase or decrease a subject's likelihood to pitch in and help with the task? Turns out that participants culled from around the world through informal labor site Amazon Mechanical Turk were more likely to cooperate at the beginning, but became increasingly selfish when response time was lengthened, giving them a period to think about what they would get out of the exchange. In a way, the results show an optimistic side of human nature—we're naturally generous! But they're also a bit disconcerting. The more thoughtful and reflective we're allowed to be about cooperative projects, the more likely we are to be uncooperative.
So, does this viewpoint make you feel to be a proud, noble savage whose first instincts are our best or more like a failed replacement  NFL referee ("Upon further review, I will not be of help.") ?