Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Targeted altruism

Or, a rose by any other name... from Superfreakonomics:
Some of [Gary] Becker's most compelling early research concerned altruism. He argued, for instance, that the same person who might be purely selfish in business could be exceedingly altruistic among people he knew -- although, importantly (Becker is an economist, after all), he predicted that altruism even within a family would have a strategic element.

Summers empirically demonstrated Becker's point. Using data from a U.S. government longitudinal study, they showed that an elderly parent in a retirement home is more likely to be visited by his grown children if they are expecting a sizable inheritance.

But wait, you say: maybe the offspring of wealthy families are simply more caring toward their elderly parents?

A reasonable conjecture -- in which case you'd expect an only child of wealthy parents to be especially dutiful. But the data show no increase in retirement- home visits if a wealthy family has only one grown child; there need to be at least two. This suggests that the visits increase because of competition between siblings for the parent's estate. 

This illustrates an interesting problem in defining altruism not just as good acts, but good acts done selflessly:

How can we know whether an act is altruistic or self- serving? If you help rebuild a neighbor's barn, is it because you're a moral person or because you know your own barn might burn down someday? When a donor gives millions to his alma mater, is it because he cares about the pursuit of knowledge or because he gets his name plastered on the football stadium?

Sorting out such things in the real world is extremely hard. While it is easy to observe actions, it is much harder to understand the intentions behind an action.

After an interesting discussion of several lab experiments, researchers conclude that true altruism (if it exists as all) is elusive as a unicorn or Nessie:
If John List's research proves anything, it's that a question like "Are people innately altruistic?" is the wrong kind of question to ask. People aren't "good" or "bad." People are people, and they respond to incentives. They can nearly always be manipulated -- for good or ill -- if only you find the right levers.

48 comments:

  1. This is a reply that to a discussion that began over 5 or 6 posts ago, at "Playing doctor(part 1)":

    I don't fucking want to see posts just from M.E.'s point of view, i don't want him out of the closet, i want to see an infinity of different points of view. So M.E. go on doing what you were doing till now. The post that gave us insight on your life was also interesting. Go on with that too, but not just that.

    Second, about the rape being legal post. Fuckheads: if you don't understand something, it doesn't mean that it's wrong.

    The guy said that a genuine rapist can't get pleasure out of normal sex because in normal sex the consort has consent. On the market there is no raping for a rapist to get pleasure. So that's how raping should be legal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So, if I just get pleasure by killing people like you that should make it legal and I can proceed? The point of legality is not to support that all the whims of people are satisfied, but the respect between individuals. Are you a teen?

      Delete
    2. I think we should respect each other differences, even if the different viewpoints are distrurbing. We are after all discussing on a website about sociopathy, nothing here is supposed to be "normal".

      Out in the human world you will find all sorts of people who think all sorts of things. If you are going to be upset about it, then you are in for alot of grief. Thats how it is, better accept it and take this whole fact with rational calmness.

      Fred wants to legalize rape. I think that gavinbg whatever opinion you want is OK. I propably know people, or could find people who would gladly endulge with him in his rape fantasies. I can't promise however, that he will be on top ;)

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    3. On the market there is no raping for a rapist to get pleasure. So that's how raping should be legal.

      Because it is logical to esteem rarely manifested, deviant sexual proclivities above a person's right to exercise autonomy over their own body! :D

      I know it's from an old post, but I just had to comment on that little gem. Who comes up with this bullshit? Lol!

      Delete
  2. STFU FRED, U GOT NO BRAINZ IN UR HEAD, PLUS THE CONVERSATION WAS DEAD. WHATS SAID IS SAID AND I WONT BE LED BACK TO THAT BED, WE DONE FUCKED ON IT TOO MUCH ALREADY, THE DAMN THINGS UNSTEADY, WOULD FALL APART BEFORE I STARTED BREATHING HEAVY, PLUS ITS JUST BORING NOW, I NEED A NEW PLACE FOR SCORING NOW, BUT SINCE YOU'RE WHORING OUT, WHY DON'T YOU COME UP WITH A NEW STORY NOW, FOR US TO DISCUSS, A NEW THEME IS A MUST, IF YOU WANT TO TALK THE TOPIC MUST ADJUST.

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  3. http://tts.imtranslator.net/APg2

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  4. I like making up rymes too..with MY SON!! That's pretty good though!

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  5. FUCK U IM WAY BETTER THAN UR SON WATCH!!


    I penetrate em as I serenade em, cut em up and then I marinade em, with music and with sauce, stir saucey rhymes into my pots. bring that bitch up to a boil and hear em screamin FUCKIN HOT!!

    Then I get out my axe and the metaphors collapse, I just start to swing and hack, and the people all stand back. the music sorta stops until the massacre begins, then everybody sings, screaming so many pretty things, about their kids playing on the swings, and their husbands and their wives. so many perfect lives, don't know why they can't be mine. but i'll never let it end, not for any of my friends, i'll preserve these precious times in between these rhyming lines, recording what they live for... as everybody dies.

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  6. you're both annoying..

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  7. oh sorry. my son is only seven. i wasn't comparing.

    I don't know anyone who acts without motive. But maybe someone can explain a bit on what altruism is.

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  8. You've inspired me, sir. Don't ever let anyone call you a retard, retard!

    John the Rapper

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  9. Another great painting by the pseudonymous artist Peter Pan.

    BRAVO. BRAVO, Sir.

    (I'm serious. I cackled at that masterpiece.)

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  10. LOL - so is anonymous a plagiarist or is he "John the Rapper"?
    This was something I put together in the bath last sunday:

    Hey Mr Sociopath Man

    Hey ! Mr Sociopath Man, play a song for me
    I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
    Hey ! Mr Sociopath Man, play a song for me
    In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.
    Though I know that evenin's empire has returned into sand
    Vanished from my hand
    Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
    My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet
    I have no one to meet
    And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.

    Hey ! Mr Sociopath Man, play a song for me
    I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
    Hey ! Mr Sociopath Man, play a song for me
    In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

    Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin' ship
    My senses have been stripped, my hands can't feel to grip
    My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels
    To be wanderin'
    I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
    Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way
    I promise to go under it.

    Hey ! Mr Sociopath Man, play a song for me
    I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
    Hey ! Mr Sociopath Man, play a song for me
    In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

    Though you might hear laughin', spinnin' swingin' madly across the sun
    It's not aimed at anyone, it's just escapin' on the run
    And but for the sky there are no fences facin'
    And if you hear vague traces of skippin' reels of rhyme
    To your Sociopath in time, it's just a ragged clown behind
    I wouldn't pay it any mind, it's just a shadow you're
    Seein' that he's chasing.

    Hey ! Mr Sociopath Man, play a song for me
    I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
    Hey ! Mr Sociopath Man, play a song for me
    In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

    Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind
    Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
    The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
    Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
    Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
    Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
    With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
    Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

    Hey ! Mr Sociopath Man, play a song for me
    I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
    Hey ! Mr Sociopath Man, play a song for me
    In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

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  11. feature on John the Rapper

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ni3bPWH5tFg

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  12. "STFU FRED, U GOT NO BRAINZ IN UR HEAD, PLUS THE CONVERSATION WAS DEAD. WHATS SAID IS SAID AND I WONT BE LED BACK TO THAT BED, WE DONE FUCKED ON IT TOO MUCH ALREADY, THE DAMN THINGS UNSTEADY, WOULD FALL APART BEFORE I STARTED BREATHING HEAVY, PLUS ITS JUST BORING NOW, I NEED A NEW PLACE FOR SCORING NOW, BUT SINCE YOU'RE WHORING OUT, WHY DON'T YOU COME UP WITH A NEW STORY NOW, FOR US TO DISCUSS, A NEW THEME IS A MUST, IF YOU WANT TO TALK THE TOPIC MUST ADJUST."

    Stupid anonymous fuck.

    ReplyDelete
  13. THIS COMING FROM THE IDIOT WHO TOOK A WEEK TO THINK OF SOMETHING TO SAY AND THEN HAD TO POST HIS COMMENT IN AN UNRELATED BLOG POST JUST TO GET SOME ATTENTION WAAAAAHHHH CRY ME A RIVAH NIGGA!

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  14. “If John List's research proves anything, it's that a question like "Are people innately altruistic?" is the wrong kind of question to ask.”

    The fact that we cannot test someone motives yet doesn’t mean that people are not altruistic.

    Psychological tests have some limitations, maybe one day we will be able to screen if the actions of generosity performed in a test were altruistic or interested, and we will be able to unmask the hypocrites.

    “People aren't "good" or "bad." People are people, and they respond to incentives.”

    People are people, yes, but there is a very wide range of people, some do more evil than others, so they rate higher in the “bad” and others higher in the “good”. If they rate very high in the “bad” they have many odds to be diagnosed as sociopaths.

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  15. Ever since M.E wrote the damn book this place have been plastered with retards

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    Replies
    1. I was here long before the tards :)

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  16. True altruism is taking a costly action to help someone else, where the price (or risk) is far greater than the personal reward. I'll try to provide some examples.

    Donating a kidney.
    Running into a burning building to save someone.
    Taking a bullet for someone.
    Supporting an unpopular oppressed minority.
    Attacking someone engaged in committing a rape or murder.
    Trying to scare a bear that is chasing someone slower than you.

    There are smaller 'random acts of kindness' such as holding the door for people, or giving your ice cream to a child that has dropped theirs. In these cases, though, the price is so small that it doesn't really fit my definition of altruism. Most people will go through life never really doing anything altruistic.

    The trolls sure do come out early nowadays, it must be getting close to summer :)

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    Replies
    1. I think Edward Snowden has done something truly altruistic.

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    2. Agreed. The cost for him was too high.

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    3. I find myself linking his personality with yours, Andy, on some (completely irrational) level. I could see you doing something like that.

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    4. Altruism does not require heroic sacrifices, just because you are not able to detect the altruism in smaller actions.

      Actually some of your examples could hide ulterior motives. If Jamie would donate a kidney right now I would not believe it is altruistic at all ;)

      Instead of asking economist maybe it is better to ask psychologist about altruism:

      “Human infants as young as 14 to 18 months of age help others attain their goals, for example, by helping them to fetch out-of-reach objects or opening cabinets for them. They do this irrespective of any reward from adults (indeed external rewards undermine the tendency), and very likely with no concern for such things as reciprocation and reputation, which serve to maintain altruism in older children and adults.”

      http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~lds/pdfs/Warneken&Tomasello_2009b.pdf

      Delete
    5. @Mach I have been known to do stupid things, the definition of stupid of course meaning actions with high personal cost and low reward.

      I'm now slightly paranoid about google asking for my phone number. What better place for the government to find bad people than a nest of sociopaths? All they have to do is sift through my posts, find all the bad things, take them out of context, and I'll be in prison in no time! Woo!

      Delete
    6. at least you didn't write a rabble rousing column this week citing Patrick Henry (Give me Liberty or Give me death!) Yeah... I win the stupid award :)

      Delete
  17. I took a homeless woman in my car and bought her some fast food and gave her $50 on her prepaid phone so she could receive calls for jobs. What was my motive? I suppose I would want someone to do the same for me if I were in her position.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, that's why I do stuff too. I would want someone to help my mother or my sister or my nephew or myself in similar circumstances. I don't know if I believe 'what goes around comes around' but I behave as if I do.

      In some cases I just feel I have enough to share. If someone asks, I'll give if I can. Any one of us could end up on skid row. My father was quietly altrustic, he was constantly giving his time and money away. I don't know what he gained from it but he was a very contented man and always comfortable materially despite his generosity.

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    2. watch the`movie "Pay It Forward"

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    3. what about love? do you think what goes around comes around with love?


      I always think the more i love, the less i will be loved.

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    4. "what about love? do you think what goes around comes around with love?"

      Yes, I think I do. Just as long as you don't limit your definition to romantic love. Your relationships may not have panned out because of a dysfunctional childhood dynamic or whatever but I bet you have rich friendships that will nourish you for the rest of your life.

      Delete
  18. People aren't "good" or "bad." People are people…

    BINGO!

    They can nearly always be manipulated -- for good or ill -- if only you find the right levers.

    And here is an inconvenient truth stated plainly.

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  19. Up From The SofaJune 12, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    You were fighting in some war like a brave solider. Then you find the sides change or the war was called off. You feel like a fool.You thought your loyalties meant something

    The players shift around like marble chess pieces, looking solid but being gossamer. That is how it feels when you sacrificed your limbs for your country and it was all a made up war.

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    Replies
    1. Anyone who thinks their "loyalty" means anything within the context of a war is incredibly naive. Why do you think Army recruiters seek out 18 year old boys fresh out of high school? It isn't merely a question of their being fit and testosterone-laden. The best soldiers are gullible, approval-seeking peons in a game waged by self-serving opportunists and propagandists.
      The rules of war are as capricious as the politicians who endorse them.

      Screw all their systems and ploys. I'm learning to sustain myself.

      Delete
    2. Masters of War

      Come you masters of war
      You that build all the guns
      You that build the death planes
      You that build the big bombs
      You that hide behind walls
      You that hide behind desks
      I just want you to know
      I can see through your masks

      You that never done nothin’
      But build to destroy
      You play with my world
      Like it’s your little toy
      You put a gun in my hand
      And you hide from my eyes
      And you turn and run farther
      When the fast bullets fly

      Like Judas of old
      You lie and deceive
      A world war can be won
      You want me to believe
      But I see through your eyes
      And I see through your brain
      Like I see through the water
      That runs down my drain

      You fasten the triggers
      For the others to fire
      Then you set back and watch
      When the death count gets higher
      You hide in your mansion
      As young people’s blood
      Flows out of their bodies
      And is buried in the mud

      You’ve thrown the worst fear
      That can ever be hurled
      Fear to bring children
      Into the world
      For threatening my baby
      Unborn and unnamed
      You ain’t worth the blood
      That runs in your veins

      How much do I know
      To talk out of turn
      You might say that I’m young
      You might say I’m unlearned
      But there’s one thing I know
      Though I’m younger than you
      Even Jesus would never
      Forgive what you do

      Let me ask you one question
      Is your money that good
      Will it buy you forgiveness
      Do you think that it could
      I think you will find
      When your death takes its toll
      All the money you made
      Will never buy back your soul

      And I hope that you die
      And your death’ll come soon
      I will follow your casket
      In the pale afternoon
      And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
      Down to your deathbed
      And I’ll stand o’er your grave
      ’Til I’m sure that you’re dead

      -Bob Dylan, 1963

      Delete
    3. the best soldiers are ones who need something for them to feel they have a purpose. people need it.

      i was walking oneday and a boy said he was looking for army recruitment center, he said he just got out of rehab. he was so happy to be going somewhere to belong, somewhere safe, (haha) somewhere people would make him feel he was valuable....

      alterego, is this^ the same thing as approval seeking??

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    4. lost people need to belong somewhere.

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    5. He did not want to be an addict anymore, so i guess the army would make sure he was drug free. this doesnt mean he felt he doesnt belong. He was taking care of himself, that's all.

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    6. Sure. Wanting to feel valuable and accepted constitutes a desire for approval. That person was so desperate to find new sources of affirmation that he sought out the recruiters himself. They didn't even have to come knocking; like a fly to a pitcher plant, he walked from one self-imposed prison to another.

      Delete
  20. what kind of people feel they need to have a purpose, then?

    ReplyDelete
  21. I am always delighted by Andy's great insights. Please ignore that person's annoying remarks about u. Have a great day, folks!

    ReplyDelete

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