I always knew I wanted to be with a nice guy instead of an ass. And it seems that evolution may be on my side, according to a new study from biologists at Michigan State University. So all you dudes (and dudettes) who believe you need to act like jerks to get ahead, think again — we have new proof that nice guys finish first, despite the bad press.
Okay, so a small study can’t exactly predict the fate of the world. Still, researchers used game theory to help explain how evolution might turn out for us human folk, and their tests revealed that cooperative, empathetic sorts are more likely to turn up winners than their cutthroat counterparts.
The study was a response to previous research on the “prisoner’s dilemma” game, in which two prisoners are told they will get jail time if they both rat on each other, a reduced sentence if they both stay mum, or a free pass if they rat on their cohort but the other person doesn’t rat them out in return. The theory is that the narcs will come out on top, while the people who keep their mouths shut will get screwed — and that’s exactly what previous researchers discovered to be true.
What the Michigan team found, however, was that the self-serving players won the battle but not the war, and that nasty tactics only work in situations where opponents know each other. In the long term, those who acted in the best interests of others as well as themselves came out on top. And theoretically, that’s where evolution will eventually lead: to the survival of the most cooperative.
These results may not be terribly far-reaching, but they do bring hope for those of us who want to think the best of our fellow humans. Hey — maybe we’re on the right track, after all.