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Social studies

Humans and our instinct for generosity Add to ...

Our inborn generosity

“Feeling generous? Think it over a little and then see how you feel,” writes Monte Morin in the Los Angeles Times. “While humankind has often judged itself as greedy and self-interested, a growing body of evidence suggests that people’s default mode is to be giving and co-operative – particularly in times of stress. In fact, some behavioural scientists argue that ancient humans would never have survived their harsh environment and proliferated so successfully had they lacked the urge to help others. A new study in the journal Nature offers fresh proof that we are inclined toward collaboration – by showing that the more time people were given to contemplate a generous act, the less likely they were to actually follow through with it.” If its findings are accurate, the study could have wide-ranging implications for fundraising organizations, governments and corporations, said lead author David Rand, who studies human evolutionary biology at Harvard University.

Worse than a criminal record?

“A new survey has found that hiring managers and recruiters believe it is easier to place a candidate who has a job – but who also has a criminal record – than a person who has been unemployed for more than two years,” says The Huffington Post. “Bullhorn, the recruiting software company, conducted an anonymous survey of 1,500 recruiting and hiring managers last month and asked them to rate the difficulty of placing certain candidates on a scale from one to five. The company found that 44 per cent of respondents rated candidates who had been unemployed for two years or more as a five … But when it came to people with non-felony criminal records, just 31 per cent of hiring managers rated them as a five.”

The bicycle’s role in mating

“According to Stephen Stearns, a Yale professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, before the invention of the bicycle, the average distance between the birthplaces of spouses in England was one mile (1.6 kilometres),” writes Natalie Wolchover for LifesLittleMysteries.com. “During the latter half of the 19th century, bikes upped the distance men went courting to 30 miles, on average. Scholars have identified similar patterns in other European countries. Widespread use of bicycles stimulated the grading and paving of roads … and making way for the introduction of automobiles. Love’s horizons have kept expanding ever since.”

No more driver’s licences?

The timeline for self-driving cars hitting the road en masse keeps getting closer, reports Wired magazine. “The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers recently released predictions that autonomous cars will account for up to 75 per cent of vehicles on the road by the year 2040. The organization went even further, forecasting how infrastructure, society and attitudes could change when self-driving cars become the norm around the middle of the century. [The institute] envisions an absence of traffic signs and lights, since highly evolved, self-driving cars won’t need them, and it believes that full deployment could even eliminate the need for driver’s licences.”

Thought du jour

"Originality is unexplored territory. You get there by carrying a canoe. You can’t take a taxi."

Alan Alda, American actor and author (1936- )

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