The Mixed-Motive Exchange

We humans are social, but also individual. We often need help to succeed or excel. For example, early man was a poor match for a mastodon or prehistoric bison. He could hunt or gather smaller, less nutritious food alone. But he needed to hunt in a group if he were to take such dangerous high value prey.“Good for me” vs. “good for us”: the mixed motive

The ancient hunter was motivated to act as a selfish individual. He wanted as much of the mastodon meat as he could get, to fuel his survival in harsh conditions.  In tension with his selfish motives was his motive to act for the benefit of the collective, however. The hunter needed to promote the survival of all clan members, because each contributed to his survival.  But acting altruistically (by, for example, sharing food) disadvantaged him in the short term.

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