Selfishness May Actually Be Beneficial Behavior

Posted: May 25 2016, 1:24pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Selfishness may Actually be Beneficial Behavior
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  • The Best Way to Deal with Temptation is to Give into It

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The Wildean quotation may be spot on. Apparently, the best way to deal with temptation is to give into it, as everyone does eventually yield to desire.

Lack of control may be termed in this age of political correctness as maladaptation. Yet we all know that it is just that, a giving into desire and temptation in an all-too-human manner.

Called pure selfishness, it may not in fact be a bad thing at all. Being selfish means you have a self! It is actually necessary for survival in a dog-eat-dog world where it is every man for himself.

Children who are brought up in poverty tend to fend for themselves and are selfish to the core. The 70s had the marshmallow tests done in psychology. These involved a gauging of impulsive behavior.

The little tykes were given a choice of eating a marshmallow on the spur of the moment or eating two after a few minutes had elapsed. Those who opted for the former choice were maladapted.

Those who chose the latter option were well-adapted and had the power of delayed gratification. Apparently, children from a poverty-stricken background tended to snatch the first chance they got to gulp down a marshmallow.

This appears to be an impulse control problem but paradoxically it is adaptive in the final analysis. Since their home environments were such that resources were lacking these youngsters seemed to jump at the chance of gobbling a marshmallow.

The new study which was a follow up to the previous findings, looked into the vagal tone of preschool kids. This took place while they were engaged in being tantalized by temptations.

The vagus relays vital data from the cardiac muscle, lungs, gut and other organs to the brain. It plays a vital role in the modification of mood swings related to anxiety and fear. A greater vagal tone tends to indicate greater patience and thoughtfulness.

Children who belong to homes that are rich in resources (both material and cultural) tend to think twice before making a crucial decision. They tend to keep their cool, wait with “grace under pressure” and often good things come to them for they have a tendency to delay gratification endlessly.

Yet those children who came from a poor background showed no delayed gratification despite having a high vagal tone. This was strange but true. M&M candies were used in the experiment. It seemed to be a case of the law of the jungle where you either eat or be eaten. In situations of scarcity, to snatch what you can, when you can, seems to be the norm.

This Rochester study gotpublished in Psychological Science.

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