Three Reasons Why We Care

Evolutionary psychology suggests that being kind-hearted to those we don’t know isn’t a natural instinct. Quote by Author Michael McCullough

What’s our kindness to strangers rooted in? Look to these three R’s:

  1. Reciprocity – a social instinct to help others in hopes of receiving help in return.
  2. Reputation – a social instinct to help others though ultimately in pursuit of self-glory, i.e., appearing virtuous.
  3. Reasoning – an intellectual determination that there are beneficial incentives for doing so.

What’s the difference between the first two R’s and the last one? Reciprocity and Reputation go strictly back to “me”: either wanting to attract allies so we can be safer and happier (Reciprocity), or wanting to feel better about ourselves (Reputation). The third R, Reasoning, offers plenty of overlap with the first two R’s, but ultimately comes down to a hard-edged cost/benefit analysis, stripped of emotion. You’re after prosperity, and the more resources you have the lower will be the relative cost of helping others.

For instance, you might aid trading partners down on their luck, figuring they will then be in a position to buy more from you later on if revitalized. The bottom line, McCullough argues, is that human beings aren’t readily given to helping strangers. It often takes the addition of the harsher 3rd R to push us toward being “kind.”

The world’s great religions–and the Golden Rule–were born as the volume of people our ancestors were interacting with was growing rapidly. Today, international trade is helping to drive the value of being seen as trustworthy even higher.

The Historical Progression of Empathy

Released today: episode #25 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Michael McCullough, the author of The Kindness of Strangers: How a Selfish Ape Invented a New Moral Code. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Michael McCullough is a professor of psychology at the University of California San Diego. He’s a fellow of both the American Psychological Association as well as the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. This episode first covers why people practice empathy and compassion, followed by seven stages of history whereby compassion became more generally practiced, and why.

Dan Hill, Ph.D, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Be Psycho-Logical

What’s better in business, and life, than always trying to be logical? It’s to be psycho-logical. Here are five insights from Rory Sutherland’s book for you to reflect on:

  1. Gain a competitive advantage by spotting the instances where universal laws don’t apply, and rivals haven’t noticed (yet).
  2. Relying on data can make you blind to important facts that lie outside your model; after all, data reflects the past rather than shines a light on the future.
  3. Being too rationale runs the risk of making you predictable, so competitors can anticipate and prepare for your next move.
  4. Evolution doesn’t care about accuracy, only fitness. So don’t get hung up on accuracy, strive for effectiveness.
  5. Prize understanding people over measuring things. Remember to factor in unconscious motivations as well as post-rationalizations to get a better handle on people’s behaviors, which shape attitudes and not the other way around.
How do animals attract mates and ward off rivals? They signal vitality in ways that cost them physically. Guess what? Consumers do it, too.

Spreadsheets Leave No Room for Miracles

Released today: episode #23 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Rory Sutherland, the author of Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Rory Sutherland is the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy, a legendary advertising agency. He’s a columnist for The Spectator and a former president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (the IPA). His TED Talks have been viewed over 6.5 million times. This episode covers lots of ground, including how important it is to not use logic as a filter, limiting your ability to notice the quirky patterns in people’s behaviors.

How Do Animals and People Handle Threats?

We’re in the stretch drive now of the 2020 presidential race, and from the debates to other staged events what might we learn from animal nature that applies to human nature? Plenty. Do any of these survival techniques remind you of what happens among candidates and in office politics, too:

  • Exaggerating one’s ferocity (growling, baring teeth literally or figuratively);
  • Puffing up one’s capability or accomplishments (to intimidate others);
  • Being or bluffing about being poisonous (therefore all the harder to conquer and absorb);
  • Engaging in deception (through camouflaging or mimicry of a more powerful ally); and finally
  • Being colorful, bright and intense (verbally or physically) to achieve social dominance.

Never forget that evolution sadly isn’t worried about theoretical questions of right and wrong. What works, wins, and winners-take-all wasn’t invented yesterday.

Animals do it, people do it, and in this case I don’t mean “fall in love.” There are five key
tricks of the trade to coming out on top in office politics.

Or Else: The Use & Abuse of Threats

Released today: episode #22 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring David Barash, the author of Threats: Intimidation and Its Discontents. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Barash is a research scientist and author who spent 43 years as a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, Seattle. He’s written over 240 scientific papers, written or co-written 41 books, and been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This episode covers three key areas: the natural world, individuals and society, and international affairs.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.