NCBI ROFL: Measuring the distribution of spitefulness.

By ncbi rofl | August 22, 2012 7:00 pm

“Spiteful, antisocial behavior may undermine the moral and institutional fabric of society, producing disorder, fear, and mistrust. Previous research demonstrates the willingness of individuals to harm others, but little is understood about how far people are willing to go in being spiteful (relative to how far they could have gone) or their consistency in spitefulness across repeated trials. Our experiment is the first to provide individuals with repeated opportunities to spitefully harm anonymous others when the decision entails zero cost to the spiter and cannot be observed as such by the object of spite. This method reveals that the majority of individuals exhibit consistent (non-)spitefulness over time and that the distribution of spitefulness is bipolar: when choosing whether to be spiteful, most individuals either avoid spite altogether or impose the maximum possible harm on their unwitting victims.”

Bonus figure from the main text:

Figure 2. Histogram of measured spitefulness (Sit), pooled over all subjects and trials. The height of each bar represents the relative frequency of observing spitefulness in each of 50 intervals of length 0.02. Nearly 70% of the weight of the distribution is in the extreme values zero and one, indicating that, given the opportunity, subjects are either maximally spiteful or not spiteful at all.

Photo: flickr/Blind Grasshopper

Related content:
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Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Winners love winning and losers love money.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings, NCBI ROFL
  • Miles Archer

    ooh. The Alameda Spite House!


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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl


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