Science Wonders if There is a Positive Side to Some Petty Behaviors and the Result Might Surprise You

Science Wonders if There is a Positive Side to Some Petty Behaviors and the Result Might Surprise You

Written by Craig Rogers, Posted on , in Section Essential Reads

In every group of friends, there is always that one person who everyone knows to be spiteful or selfish. They always contribute the least amount of money for pizza and rarely ever tip. They will always prank you back harder than you could ever prank them. Nobody messes with this person, because they know that there will be consequences. Some would say that this type of behavior is what allows that person look bad or reflects poorly on them, but is there a benefit to being spiteful and selfish?

Spin the Choice

Research has found that there may be benefits for those that are spiteful. Researchers have determined that fairness probably originated as a result of malicious behavior. Think about this hypothetical situation: There is a new game show called “Spin the Choice.” Teams of two are split up with one person spinning a wheel that could land on different amounts of money, while the other person is blindfolded behind the stage.

The game works like this: One player spins the wheel until it falls on an amount of money, then this player chooses how to split the money with the second player. The second player can then opt to accept or reject the offer. But there’s a twist - if the second player rejects the offer, neither player receives any money. Some people might be tempted to provide the second player a very little amount, hoping to gain as much as possible, but is this the best choice? If the second player is not offered enough they can decline the offer and both players will leave empty handed.

Fairness from Spite

Researchers have studied participants of a similar game. Results indicate that over time players of the game begin to self-regulate. This means that after playing the game repeatedly, Player 1 began offering more and more money to Player 2. In this situation, Player 2 benefits from being spiteful.

By rejecting offers from Player 1, Player 2 can increase his share of winnings. Player 1 also benefits from this behavior because his offers are being accepted at a higher rate, giving him more winnings. Players of the game began to play more fair as a result of spiteful behavior. So next time you are dealing with someone who is spiteful or selfish, remember that your best option is probably fairness.