The Unique Study That Found What Makes Humans Naturally Selfish

A unique study a few years ago  found what makes humans naturally selfish. Perhaps the biggest flaw in humanity is the perennial thought of the “I’  ‘WE’ and ‘ME’. Such thinking serves as the foundation of a natural vice found commonly in human beings. That is Selfishness.

Selfishness isn’t necessarily a repetitive act of not sharing with others. It is also the continuous assumption of individuality where the perception of one’s own problems and actions for gain surpass in importance on every level as compared to those of a fellow human being. Is this what makes humans naturally selfish?

Man’s evolutionary instinct is to survive

From time immemorial the evolution of humans and the common pattern of thought has always arisen from the basic instinct to survive. Regardless of man evolving into a social animal, the primal instinct to cooperate only to the extent of individual benefit will always be man’s common agenda. A recent study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania found how humans were naturally selfish all because it was a practical method to obtain maximum gain.

A series of experiments involving a manipulated version of an exercise known as a prisoner’s dilemma found how humans adopted selfish strategies to gain an extra measure of success. It proved that despite of human beings cooperating out of social obligation, they were inclined to display selfish behavior as part of a common intuitive sense to derive as much benefit for themselves. The exercise displayed three scenarios.


The three common scenarios of a tweaked study called ‘prisoners dilemma’

  1. In a game if two players cooperate they receive equal benefits
  2. If one cooperates and the other does not, the player who cooperates receives a smaller amount than the one who doesn’t
  3. If both players do not cooperate they receive equal but reduced benefits

The conclusion of such an observation means that although it pays to cooperate, selfishness on the other hand pays higher dividends. According to Professor Joshua Plotkin who along with Professor Alexander Stewart co authored a mathematical explanation of the evolution of cooperation and generosity “It’s a somewhat depressing evolutionary outcome, but it makes intuitive sense”.

The evolution of cooperation

How cooperative or selfish we are is determined by several factors influencing an individual. Upbringing and schooling are equally important factors for determining the nature of an individual as is an individual’s social environment and genetic inheritance. The evolution of cooperation may be linked to earlier times where cooperation between relatives was beneficial for the continuation of a bloodline. But as families and bloodlines grew and drifted apart, they began involving individuals not related by blood. Thus, a sense of individualism began to take hold.

Evolution has no doubt proven in several circumstances how cooperation benefits a group of people but when situations are mutated to change any given situation, it is self interest that gains momentum.

Selfishness pays temporary gains

In the enhanced version of the study of Prisoners dilemma which was published in the National Academy of Sciences, 2012, players were even allowed to change and adopt new strategies where they received benefits for cooperating. But with the promise of extra payoffs, researchers found that individuals were inclined to deviate from the strategy of cooperation. In such a scenario, it is the selfish player who may win temporary gains but loses in the long run. Either way it observed humans naturally selfish.

Selfishness and selflessness is a perennial battle between humanity reflecting the clash of good and evil. Where selfishness is the vice, it is selflessness that is the virtue where cooperation benefits mankind as a whole.  Selfishness leads to temporary gain resulting only in mankind’s demise. Unfortunately there is no happy ending in this conclusion that finds  humans naturally selfish. Yet read how exclusive are we naturally selfish

But there is indeed hope because where there is vice there is virtue too as in the balance of all natural things and we need to cling on to that to make this world a better place.


Leave a Reply

Notify of

Popular Posts

Facebook Pagelike Widget