Cooperation and instinctual bias; a link

Our instincts are somewhat geared towards physical risks like the need to run away from a Saber Tooth Tiger and our bodies stress response is also geared towards preparing our bodies to run away or stand and fight. Stress can rev up blood flow and energy levels, which is great if there’s a Saber Tooth Tiger, but if it’s just the demands of a modern day desk job then the the physical stress response is less helpful and over time can increase chronic health risks. So take a break and a brief walk if you’re stressed at a desk job and it might help reduce stress levels to stare at relaxing image of nature for a moment.

There are physical reactions to stress that may be occurring in your body. [1] Walking in natural settings [2] or looking at images of nature [3] has been found helpful for calming the physical stress response, which is also known as the “fight or flight response.” (The links 1, 2, and 3 are from a previous post, they are not to the research article about cooperation. It is included later.)

Our instinctual expectations may also be affecting our expectations about cooperation from others. Research in game theory has been found helpful outside of the tech areas. In studying cooperation it was found that there are two basic styles – impulsive and immediate, “Yes, sure,” and a slower more rational based, “Maybe, but what exactly did you need?” The more immediate cooperation may be associated with increased trust in that person, possibly because of our Saber Tooth Tiger instincts.

In a dangerous physical reality a group would need complete trust in each others’ ability to act quickly if needed. When told run, you run, it might be a tiger; when told to jump, you jump, it might be a rock tumbling off a cliff behind you. But in an increasingly complex and technically fast-paced world sometimes it might actually be safer to have someone take the time to question whether the proposed action is the best one to take before impulsively agreeing, “Yes sure.”

Example from blogging: It is easy to post something but more difficult to un-post it, there may be copies all over the place even if you un-post the original.

So do you – Leap before you look? or Look before you leap? People might instinctively trust the person more who immediately says, “Yes sure,” — leaping before looking; but in the long run in our modern world the rational questions of “Where do you want me to run and how far and should I pack a water bottle and lunch?” may seem annoying and less trustworthy in the short term but they might save you from a worse problem later on.

I’m a Girl Scout by training and our motto is “Always be prepared.” or maybe that’s the boyscout motto. Okay, it is the Girl Scout motto but shorter “Be prepared.” I digress, my answer to the question of whether I would leap before looking or look before leaping is “It depends on the situation.” Recently I made a flying leap to football tackle my dog who can be protective and aggressive with other dogs sometimes. I bruised my knee and elbow slightly but caught the dog before anything bad had happened. More typically though I tend to ask the annoying questions of “Why, when and where, and how long, and are you really sure it is a good idea?

I blame my Girl Scout training and the motto, “Be prepared,” or my parents, or my health professional training and experience, for that rational tendency to generally question first and leap second. If it is a long run on a hot day then packing lunch and a water bottle will help you actually arrive at your destination and in healthy enough shape to do whatever it is that was necessary in the first place. But in the real world of interpersonal relations I have noticed that some people don’t seem to like to be questioned when they are asking you for help. They just want you to say, “Yes, sure.”

And the linked article and the research it discusses helps explain why – it’s our instincts which may be derived from our evolutionary expectations of physical dangers like Saber Tooth Tigers. The article however, doesn’t mention tigers, or looking or leaping, those examples are based on my interpretation of the article. It’s focus is a bit more on business ethics and the potential value of not blindly saying yes to requests that might lead down illegal or unethical paths. And maybe it suggests that the rationally ever questioning whistle-blower type might have value to a business even though that person might not seem as trustworthy to our instincts as the person who just says “Yes, sure.”

So pack your reusable stainless steel or BPA free plastic water bottle and Read more: “When last did you co operate without asking questions?”]

We live in a modern world, but our bodies are an ancient design.
We live in a modern world, but our bodies are an ancient design.

/Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and  the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./