It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Are human beings naturally kind or intrinsically selfish?
A group of researchers from Harvard and Yale set about to answer this very question. This group, which included, a developmental psychologist with a background in evolutionary game theory; a moral philosopher/psychologist; and a biologist/mathematician, theorized that “the first impulse to act selfishly or cooperatively serves as an indicator for one’s inherent moral nature.
A series of experiments were conducted whereby participants played a “public good” game in one of two ways, one – fast, where they made a decision in under 10 seconds, and slow where they had at least 10 seconds to decide. The findings were interesting in that those participants who had less time to act were more generous than those who had a longer time to make their choice.
These results suggest that our first instincts are to act with compassion than with selfishness. Read more about this research here.
Could this mean that human beings are, at heart, truly selfless? Does this imply that there could be a way to encourage and develop compassion in people to a level where altruism becomes “the norm” in human behaviour? Can we all live by the “Golden Rule”?
The Compassionate Action Network has posted an article describing ten things that researchers have discovered about happiness. It’s an interesting list of surprising findings about achieving a meaningful life. Take a look at the research here and while you are there you might want to sign the Charter for Compassion to support the creation of a more compassionate world.
I am grateful for the compassionate people in our world who are working towards peace, love and harmony on Earth. Today, I wish for kindness for all.