A new study shows that a person’s own behaviour drives how they treat others. While generous people tend to reward the same behaviour, selfish individuals often punish generosity and reward selfishness.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau examined how a person’s own behaviour guides their expectations of others’ generosity or selfishness. The findings, published in the journal Cognitive Science, showed that more than others’ attitudes or behaviours, an individual’s own generous or selfish deeds determine how they treat others, according to the press statement by the University of Illinois.
Previous research showed that individuals’ expectations depend on what they see as typical. If people around them behave selfishly then they tend to adopt the same behaviour. However, this new study shows that their judgements of other people’s behaviour depend on their own behaviour.
For the study, researchers conducted a series of experiments involving the Ultimatum Game, wherein an individual responds to offers from another player wanting to split a pot of money with them. The person can accept or reject and thus, rejection is seen as a form of punishment, which costs both players, according to the statement. Through the game, the researchers found that generous people tend to accept only generous offers, while selfish people are happy with selfish ones. Moreover, generous and selfish individuals tend to trust people who behave like them, regardless of the economic outcome.
“Participants will gain more money with a generous person. But a selfish person will prefer to play with someone who behaves as they do,” said Paul Bogdan, who led the research, in the statement. “People really like others who are similar to themselves – to a shocking degree.”
The team examined data from a previous cross-cultural study and found that people sometimes punish others for their selfishness or their generosity in a collaborative game involving resource sharing, according to the statement.
There have been a myriad of studies on what motivates people to be generous. In 2020, a study, led by researchers from Ohio State University found that people want to help each other, even when it costs them, regardless of the motivations, according to Science Daily. For instance, paying for coffee for a stranger behind you in a queue.