Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

The blog of Xeno, a slightly mad scientist

Why good deeds don’t go unpunished

From an early age, we are taught that cooperation, generosity, and altruism are generally things we should strive for. But altruistic acts aren’t always lauded, and researchers have found that generous individuals are sometimes punished for their behavior. Studies suggest that people often react negatively to large contributions, are suspicious of those who offer help, and want to expel particularly charitable individuals from cooperative endeavors. These seemingly counterintuitive behaviors are called “antisocial punishment” and are more common than you might think. But why would people want to punish anyone who is particularly charitable?

The answer to that question would explain a puzzling human behavior, and it could have important ramifications for public policy. Tackling many of the major problems we currently face—from climate change to political stalemates—requires cooperation and collaboration. Understanding why people are sometimes willing to undermine joint efforts out of what appears to be nothing more than spite could go a long way to improve cooperation and discourse in many areas.

Sociologists Kyle Irwin and Christine Horne suggest that our inclination to punish do-gooders may stem from our adherence to social norms. Using a clever experimental design that allowed them to manipulate the level of conformity among group members, the researchers investigated the relationship between antisocial punishment and social norms.  … a majority of the people in this study were willing to reduce their own chance to win $100 just to punish a particularly cooperative group member. …

When there is a clear “right way” to behave, the researchers suggest, people respond more strongly to behaviors that don’t fit the norm. …

via Why good deeds don’t go unpunished | Ars Technica.

Welcome to Sheep World. Conform or be cast out, repulsive good-doers.

One comment on “Why good deeds don’t go unpunished

  1. Kevin
    July 9, 2013

    This describes my career in a nutshell. Go above and beyond to help my teammates, get viewed as a megalomaniac by superiors and have career path blocked by ambiguous claims to my “personality” being an issue. They like it when you strive to meet their preconceived notion of someone helpful, which is usually a “yes man” to upper management that never makes them look bad. Once you leave the small walled garden of their benevolence all paths are blocked. Only their departure, earthly or professionally will the advance of others be allowed.

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This entry was posted on July 9, 2013 by in Mind, Strange.
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