“Why most people are suckers”

Today, I came across this interesting piece of writing called “Why most people are suckers” of Gary Hayden, a freelance writer. He said most of us have a built-in sense of fairness. We feel that when people do something nice for us, we really ought to do something nice for them in return.

Research has shown that this principle of human nature is widespread across all nations and cultures.

Social psychologists have come up with a label for it: the reciprocity rule. Simply put, the reciprocity rule states that if we receive a kindness or benefit from someone, then we will feel driven to repay it. Note how he used the word “repay”.

Prima facie, it is a wonderful thing. It fosters goodwill, gratitude, cooperation and social responsibility.  But it is such a deep and powerful principle that it can be exploited to manipulate people into doing things they would not ordinarily do and perhaps that they would rather not do. It can get us to comply to request even from people we dislike and distrust.

The Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero once wrote: “To omit the returning of kindness is impossible for a good man”.

This is very true. He continued: “But there is room to discrimination as to the benefits received..first thing to be considered is, with what degree of earnestness, zeal and true benevolence has shown us kindness”.

If this rule is deeply and unconsciously entrenched in our minds, I guess that is why I am seeing more fake than real. The sincerity is not there. Skepticism abounds.

How many of us do not greet someone out of mere reflex. How many make a donation really knowing in what hand their money ends up. How many would not send the mass message saying something really nice and finish by the line “send one back to me?”. Hmm, now we are even reminded not to forget to return a “good deed”.

Anyway, genuine care and concern haven’t come close to being scarcity. And to me, it is always a matter of choice. And it is always easier to blame others but ourselves.



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