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Pro-social vs Selfish mindsets

Hello guys,

I want to expand my mind on this topic. My opinion is that for the individual and for the species at large, the end game is to have all individuals adopt pro-social behaviors. That is what maximizes the utility and productivity of the group.

I'm not saying in the chinese way but in the northern european way: "If you don't harm me I won't harm you. Do as you please as long as it does not harm the group or anyone else."

I'm not saying it's achievable, but that it is desirable from a utility standpoint. Of course we will always have selfish behaviors. I'm not debating that. That is what keeps us alive and move us forward. Of course. It's a good thing. Taking care of oneself is "selfish" as in "turned towards the self". So we must have both.

However, my point is that socially the needle should lean slightly or medium towards the group. In China it is full force towards the group, that's too extreme. If 10 is China and 1 is USA, I would say a 6-8 towards the group. I mean most individuals should be 6-8/10 in pro-social behaviors. Regarding the amount of time and energy spent in those behaviors.

What is your opinion on the topic?

I know this turns into beliefs and stuff because nobody really knows. My question is: based on the available information at your disposal, what do you think is the most likely?

My Thoughts

We are talking about the relationship of the individual with the larger group.
Social norms guide this relationship.

Social norms that promote win-win are stable.
Social norms that promote win-lose or lose-lose are unstable.

We can define a healthy, stable group to lean towards

  • (A) social norms that encourage behaviours beneficial both to the group and the individual
  • (B) social norms that discourage behaviours beneficial to the group but detrimental to the individual
  • (C) social norms that discourage behaviours detrimental to the group but beneficial for the individual
  • (D) social norms that discourage behaviours detrimental to both the group and the individual

and lean away from

  • (E), opposite to (A), social norms that discourage behaviours beneficial both to the group and the individual
  • (F), opposite to (B), social norms that encourage behaviours beneficial to the group but detrimental to the individual
  • (G), opposite to (C), social norms that encourage behaviours detrimental to the group but beneficial for the individual
  • (H), opposite to (D), social norms that encourage behaviours detrimental to both the group and the individual

What I'm interpreting from John is he favours social norms that encourage behaviours beneficial to both the group and the individual.

Overly group-centric social norms would have less (B) and more (F), and overly individualistic social norms would have less (C) and more (G).

Examples of These Socials Norms in the Workplace

(A) Encouraging employees to learn relevant, transferrable skills at work
(B) Discouraging employees to work overtime
(C) Discouraging employees to steal office supplies
(D) Discouraging employees from punching the windows when angry
(E) Discouraging salespeople to close more sales
(F) Encouraging employees to forgo their individual identity for the group
(G) Letting employees decide on their own bonuses
(H) Encouraging unwell employees to come to work to spread viruses to their coworkers

Assuming leaders have the power to influence the social norms of the group.
Leaders benefit when individuals contribute to the interests of the group.
So it would be in their interest to encourage social norms beneficial to the group and discourage social norms detrimental to the group.

As such social norms (A), (C), (D), (F) would contribute to the leader's interest, at least in the short-term.
Whenever opportunities for (A) and (D) arise, most leaders would build upon these 2 social norms as there are no downsides for the group and individuals.

High-quality leaders would spend time on building (A), (B), (C), (D).
They would minimise (E), (F), (G), (H) for a long-term, stable collaboration between the group and individuals.

Machiavellian leaders would probably prioritise the group's interests much more than the individuals' interests.
So they would lean towards (F) over (B).
For example, encouraging employees to work over-time for the same pay.

Ineffective leaders would allow (E), (G), (H).

We should elect leaders who espouse (A), (B), (C), (D) and are against (E), (F), (G), (H) for the social group to benefit in the long run.

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman

What I'm interpreting from John is he favours social norms that encourage behaviours beneficial to both the group and the individual.

Correct interpretation. I find this norm in liberal social-democratic societies. Liberal in the sense that values individual freedom, social as they redistribute to "weaker" individuals and democratic as the voting majority of the people chooses the laws/norms.

Very interesting analysis. Thank you! I've nothing to add right now.