Swiss study: We may be hard-wired to share, sort of

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    Aug 28, 2008 3:26 AM GMT
    On NPR this afternoon, I heard about a study of Swiss children that is soon to be published in the journal Nature. It involved two groups, one each of children ages 3 and 8. Each child was given two pieces of candy and then asked if they would like to share, by giving one piece away to another child. The 3-year olds mostly would not share, but in the older group the incidence of sharing had risen to over 50%.

    The interesting finding is that, in the older group, the willingness to share was closely correlated with how similar in appearance the other child was to the one doing the giving. In other words, more of them shared, but only shared with kids that seemed very similar to themselves.

    Most of you know that I loathe the doctrine of "states' rights". The idea that local control is somehow better has been long pushed by the hard right, but it has always been a bare smokescreen for racism, anti-unionism, sexism, and homophobia. This study seems to show that in fact this is correct. "Local control" is all about making sure that your candy is shared by only the people who are most like yourself.

    The question then is: what is the polity these right-wingers identify with? Clearly it's not the country as a whole, for all the blather about patriotism. It's a state, or a region, filled with people who go to your church, share your political views, live in your gated community, belong to your Rotary Club, and heaven help you if you're not like us, because we're not going to share our candy. Meaning: we're going to call your insistence on marriage equality and ENDA "special rights", and we're going to see to it that you don't get any of it.

    Can anyone explain where this is wrong?
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    Aug 28, 2008 4:11 AM GMT
    Genetically, there is an easy basis for this. Those genes that enhanced cooperation with those that are related, enhanced the ability of those genes to make it to the next generation.

    Beyond your immediate family, it becomes a bit chancy on who is more related to you. Those that look more like you are probably more closely related genetically. So people who look like you, most probably were individuals who were genetically more closely related to you and sharing with them promoted the survival of related genes.

    And whereas there may be a bit of that in State's Rights and gated communities, SRs and GC are more about maintaining a status quo....and actually may reflect the 3 year old more than the 8 year olds. SRs and GC are more about keeping what I have....just like the 3 year olds dont want to share what they have....I've got mine to hell with you. GC: I dont want to see anyone outside of my class...they might take what I have or ask me to share. SRs: keep it local so we can control it better....control it to make sure me and my family are maintained in their upper status quo.
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    Aug 28, 2008 4:42 AM GMT
    “By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.”
    -Confucius, The Confucian Analects

    You mentioned that as the children get older they learn to share with "like" children. I think this is a learned social habit. Perhaps because those children are "taught" by "similars" (brothers, sisters, parents) they learn this as a habit. I wonder if that study would change if raised in a multi-ethnic family (or one of different looking adopted children)

    Nevertheless, it is written that complimentary opposites create one another. When we start creating definitions of what is "pretty", then we are also creating what is "ugly" When we create alliances, then we create opposition. It is the nature of creating distinctions.

    For example in the story of the Garden of Eden (yes I know your disdain for religion), why is it the the tree of the "knowledge of good and evil" leads to trouble? It has to do with distinction. The distinction is Good vs. Evil.

    The stronger your distinction is, the stronger your polarization is. That is extremism. The more static and numerous your "rules" are, the heavier your judgment is.

    It's not that nature is wrong for creating distinction and difference, because it does - "nature abhors a monoculture." It is that we learn to cling to or identify with those differences and not see our similarity. If people could learn to see and identify with their common natures more than their differences, they would get along better and not be so violent.
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    Aug 28, 2008 5:13 AM GMT
    ActiveAndFit said

    For example in the story of the Garden of Eden (yes I know your disdain for religion), why is it the the tree of the "knowledge of good and evil" leads to trouble? It has to do with distinction. The distinction is Good vs. Evil.

    The stronger your distinction is, the stronger your polarization is. That is extremism. The more static and numerous your "rules" are, the heavier your judgment is.


    After attending a seminar on "Transformational Leadership," I had an epiphany. First, I came to realize that language, itself, perpetuates and reinfects societies with such inauthentic distinctions. Think about it: Virtually every topic of conversation has tones of "right" or "wrong," "us" vs. "them," "good" and "bad," but rarely about what just "is." Most likely, the only pure distinction in nature is that between "weak" and "strong."

    Second, I came to realize that the Garden of Eden story isn't so much about disobedience, but rather, about humanity's newfound ability to distinguish "right" and "wrong;" an ability that, theretofore, was the province of deity. Prior to this event (whether literal of figurative), humanity would have gone along, blissfully unaware that a particular act were good or bad; it just was what it was.

    Think about the world if we were to approach it ontologically; approaching a thing as it is without applying labels or judgment. No religious extremism, no hyper nationalism, no racism, and pretty much no -isms, at all. A John Lennon utopia, as it were.

    This is the stain of sin, not incidentals like whether or not someone's gay or a thief or even a murderer.

    < / off soapbox >


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    Aug 28, 2008 5:43 AM GMT
    ruck_us saidSecond, I came to realize that the Garden of Eden story isn't so much about disobedience, but rather, about humanity's newfound ability to distinguish "right" and "wrong;" an ability that, theretofore, was the province of deity. Prior to this event (whether literal of figurative), humanity would have gone along, blissfully unaware that a particular act were good or bad; it just was what it was.
    I had a conversition on this other thread about the philosophical meaning of those trees ..
    http://www.realjock.com/gayforums/137883/

    I think the key is realizing that difference and similarity can and do coexist. Seeing an underlying "commonness" at our root is what helps us get along peacefully.