New study suggests humans are not naturally violent

J.G. Vibes
Activist Post

A new study published last month in Nature Journalsuggests that humans are naturally good. This study adds to the mounting evidence against the popular misconception that corruption is a trait of human nature.

In ten experiments using economic games, scientists observed that faster decisions result in more cooperation and generosity, while slower, calculated decisions show a decrease in cooperation and generosity. The conclusion is that the automatic reaction is to be friendly, generous and cooperative, and only upon further consideration do humans become greedy or violent.From the study:

“To explain these results, we propose that cooperation is intuitive because cooperative heuristics are developed in daily life where cooperation is typically advantageous. We then validate predictions generated by this proposed mechanism. Our results provide convergent evidence that intuition supports cooperation in social dilemmas, and that reflection can undermine these cooperative impulses.”

Any scientific studies these days should be taken with a grain of salt, because we are without a doubt living in an era of soviet style science, where state and corporate entities are using the scientific establishment to project a particular worldview into the mainstream consciousness. This is why it is important to always look for funding sources and seek many different avenues of research. However, in this case, this particular study is just one of many proposals put forward by the scientific community in the past several decades stating confidently that corruption has nothing to do with human nature, as the popular misconception states.

The first time this issue was brought up in the mainstream scientific community was in 1986 when scientists from around the world got together to discuss the psychological and biological evidence proving that human nature is no excuse for violent behavior. The findings that were released came to be known as “The Seville Statement”.

This statement made 5 propositions, which are:

1. “It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors.”
2. “It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature.”
3. “It is scientifically incorrect to say that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behavior more than for other kinds of behavior.”
4. “It is scientifically incorrect to say that humans have a ‘violent brain’.”
5. “It is scientifically incorrect to say that war is caused by ‘instinct’ or any single motivation.”

Since the Seville statement there have been many more studies reconfirming the propositions put forward. Just this past February a new study by a biologist named Frans de Waal showed that animals are naturally prone to cooperation when in the right circumstances.

As I discussed in the article Human Nature a Self Fulfilling Prophecy, the actions that people carry out today, and the actions that have been carried out throughout history are the result of environmental factors, as well as psychological trauma and manipulation, they can not be chalked up to “human nature”.To chalk the violence that we see around us up to human nature, is to avoid admitting there is a problem, thus preventing any progress from being made towards peace. If we think that human beings are dangerous and violent creatures, then some of us will be able to rationalize and justify malevolent behavior by writing it off as human nature, instead of condemning it as we should.

If we actually condemn this behavior instead of making empty excuses for it, we will without a doubt drastically lower the level of violence on this planet. Individually, and as a species, we can only go as far as our imagination will take us. We are only capable of what we can imagine, and if all we can imagine is violence, submission, and domination, then that’s all were ever going to get.

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56 Responses to "New study suggests humans are not naturally violent"

  1. Robert Murphy  October 4, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Social engineering that instigates competition over co-operation is a planned tactic in order to divide and conquer. This should be plainly obvious to most people yet on the whole we are so passive as we are discouraged from realising our full potential.
    We live in a time of the most efficient and abhorrent propaganda machinery ever. The old tactic of panem et circenses is in full flow to inhibit us from working out how to change the status quo.
    All top down structures are in essence the same. Just the names of the masters and the style, spin and ego’s change. If we really want to be free, we have to start working out how to co-operate and build a society from the bottom up.

  2. Anne F.  October 4, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Yes..!! Great study! October 2nd International Day of Non-violence.. As a volunteer I been pushing the Seville Manifesto in schools with the Run This Way program.. The students run for Peace and Non-violence and later in class they analyze the Manifesto !

  3. Kai Zhuang  October 4, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    The original article by Martin Nowak’s group does not make any claim on violence. It is purely focused on competition and cooperation. The study is basically a test/extension of the two-systems theory of human cognition.

    The title/claim that “New study suggests humans are not naturally violent” is very misleading.

  4. Katri Manninen  October 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Here’s how I see it: look at the little babies. Once their basic needs store taken care of, they’re calm, relaxed and in a somewhat good mood. That same state is the basic state of human beings where we return to when we don’t think anything special. In this state we are benevolent, friendly, open minded, generous and helpful — very humane.

    Every time we feel tense, nervous, worried, scared, fearful, stressed out etc., our body and brain is in the fight or flight state. In this state the activity of our most “human” parts of the brain (e.g. Frontal lobe) is diminished and our more “animalistic” and ancient parts of the brain are active, because if we were in a real danger, we should act without thinking.

    Think back the choises you made when you were feeling fearful etc. and the choises you made when you were calm and relaxed. Which choises do you regret more often? In which state do you do things you later wish you hadn’t done?

    So, our basic state is that good, loving, helpful and kind state, but we also can be hostile, aggressive and stupid when we’re in a flight or fight state.

    The good news is that once you start to pay more attention to your state of mind, you can be more careful with your words, actions and choises when you’re in the low state of mind.

    • Janet  January 27, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      Children don’t have a flight or fight state of mind…that is why we have to teach and protect them. Flight or fight is taught to them by adults. As well as many other behaviors and fears. The good and the bad. In the beginning everything was taught for basic human survival. Hunting for food and shelter. It’s the ambition and desires of our ancestors that has lead to our wonderful existence. But somewhere along the way, the value of a human life became diminished. Someone somewhere didn’t do there job as a teacher. That is why laws were developed. Look at the Ten Commandments. They were created to ensure the existence of the human race. Our past is a learning tool. The point is…we have been taught everything we know…and what we are lacking of, is a result of NOT being taught. For example, someone goes out and takes someone’s life with no regards to anything or no one. Perhaps if his teacher took him to the wilderness and told him that he must provide food for his family and taught him the hunting techniques to be used in the search. If the student has been taught properly, his next step is to find the target and commit to it. The student is nervous because at that moment he realizes what he is about to do. He takes the target because his family’s survival depends on him. He is saddened by the lack of life in the creature but he is also thankful and grateful to God for providing him with the means to feed his family. Sounds really simple. How did we forget to teach such an IMPORTANT lesson? Because we didn’t NEED to hunt anymore, but the value in the lesson still needs to be taught!!

  5. Katherine  October 8, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Imo this is true, EXCEPT for clinical psychopaths, which represent 1-3% of the population. True psychopaths have no empathy nor conscience. Because of psychopaths love of power, they tend to occupy many top positions in politics and business, where they do untold damage and warp the culture and perceptions of the rest of us. For many years I tried to study the causes of war, but nothing made sense until I understood what a psychopath was and recognized that many were in positions of power in politics.

    • AspyApneac  February 9, 2013 at 5:05 pm

      Anti-social personality disorder is a product of environment as much as it is biological. If a human is not abused the genetic trait is not triggered. Check out Dr Gabor Mate and Dr Robert Sapolsky for more, they have many free lectures on youtube.

    • Nora Al  March 12, 2013 at 11:25 am

      When a child grows up without love and being horribly abused, it is scientifically proven that the part of the brain responsible for the empathy does not develop at all. So no, psychopaths are products of our society too :)

  6. Fred M  October 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Katri makes a good point; as long as we have our basic needs met we are good natured and willing to cooperate. That is a very selffish point of view. I perceive that attitude to be as long as I am happy (satisfied) I am good. I would argue also that as long as the greater good for society is in a person’s self interest they are cooperative to the common good. However, as soon as the common good does not support their self interest they will rebel against the common good. this if you will goes back to survival of the fittest. This holds true for both violent activities and non-violent activities. And if this is true then is man still good because he is looking out for his own self interest even if his self interest involves using violence to achieve his self interest? I think not. Therefore man can not be basically good if violence is not considered a “good” option. Man is basically a selfish creature. He only looks out for his own self interest. How can this be a good characteristic other than furthering his survival? Will man help someone in dire straits ( a good characteristic) if his own survival is in jeopardy? Probably not, because his own self intererst in survival is at stake and that is man’s first concern. self centeredness is not good characteristic for society as a whole, it leads to anarchy. General cooperation is achieved when the majority are convinced by a stronger individual that the general good is in their best interest. This is fine until that leader’s self interests go outside the bounds of the general societies self interests. This is how most of our dictators have taken power. they convinced the general society that it would be in their self interest to agree with him and they would benefit from the new general interests more than they are benefiting from the present general interests, thus selfishness lead to their future demise under this soon to be dictator seen presently as their savior from the present ills of society. I wouldn’t characterize these political power players as psychopaths as i would another individual looking out for his self interests under the guise of looking out the general good of society, otherwise how would they have been able to gain the trust of the majority of their society?

  7. t.g.p  October 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    All the 5 seville statements are incorrect!! Because the immune cells have been programmed to wage war against any intruder that don`t seem to be friendly to them! As such humans and all living beings are naturally violent, but under check till something unleashes this instinct!

  8. Kiva  October 9, 2012 at 3:11 am

    I don’t think it’s an either/or, good/bad scenario. The fact that the debate even continues to rage on supports the idea that there’s truth in both sides. I feel that we have tendencies towards both “good” and “bad.” Or as Thich Nhat Hanh says, we choose whether to water the weeds or the seeds. Do we want to grow a beautiful garden in our mind or not?

    Though it will be more difficult for some, anyone can change their behaviour to be more good or bad. In the end I feel it’s all about our connection to ourselves and to others. If we’re constantly judging ourselves and others as good and bad how can we possibly show compassion and connect?

  9. Aaron Michaux  October 11, 2012 at 1:49 am

    Humans aren’t naturally non-violent because of millisecond differences in reaction times in contrived situation? Talk about clutching at straws. Here is something for the social sciences to contemplate: a sentient being is a chaotic non-linear system. Null-hypothesis significance testing will tell you next to nothing because behaviour is not a linear combination of measured “effects”. But you can use null-hypothesis significance testing to bolster whatever politics you want. It is not science, and it is also a self-defeating act.

    To the study authors: wishful thinking is far from the highest use of your cognitive resources. This is just a distraction from understanding the causes of violence. Without understanding the causes, then we’ve only got blind luck in actually doing something useful about the problem. If you believe in what Karl Rove pejoratively referred to as the “reality-based community”, then you’d realize the opportunity cost of wasting your time with fantasies. You think you are doing something moral, and I’m challenging that.

  10. Lake  October 14, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    This analysis of the study displays an astonishingly poor understanding of science and evolution. Anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of the field should understand that “naturally good” is scientifically meaningless.

    No matter how much you want to blame it on weird conspiracy theories or whatever, evolution does produce violent tendencies sometimes. Think about what evolution is. Violence is not always beneficial, and cooperation can of course be evolutionary beneficial. But evolution has led animals, including humans, to use violence at times. Allegiance to groups or tribes (or countries or religions or sports teams) comes from the tendency of groups to share more genetic similarities than outsiders, so cooperation within them helps propagate those genes. Violence sometimes comes from allegiance. Another example: It’s evolutionarily beneficial to have more resources, so groups or individual will fight to win more resources. Don’t tell me evolution doesn’t lead to that.

    Think about these things instead of writing about how you wish they were in some warm fuzzy fictional world.

    • Lake  October 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm

      Typo corrections:
      *cooperation can of course be evolutionarily beneficial
      *individuals will fight to win more resources

  11. kicker73  October 17, 2012 at 2:09 am

    This study fails to recognize the effects of scarce resources. As resources become scare, the battle for who controls them becomes increasingly violent. In the land of plenty, no one fights for a scrap of bread. But take that scrap of bread into a famine zone, and people will kill each other for it.

    You never want to try and steal food from the mouth of babes if the mother is around, she’ll rip your hand off.

    Humans that failed to fight for scare resources, didn’t survive. Studies that “conclude” humans are non-violent is only working in an idealized environment.

    • Dragan  May 11, 2013 at 1:58 am

      scarcity?? dude.. look at how much fat people there are in amerika… i really doubt that there isnt enough for all.. although i cannot say for sure ofcourse

  12. Big Roge  January 15, 2013 at 2:38 am

    paraphrased from a military study: in WW1 10percent would aim and kill, this was un acceptable so the military worked on ways to overcome the natural aversion to homocide. in WW2 higher by vietnam 90 percent were willing to kill

  13. Blake  January 15, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Scarcity is a myth, perpetrated by those who would have us fight each other, rather than them.

  14. Your Mommy  January 29, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    New study suggests that the majority of humans can’t survive without participating in some form of violence. Whether that is eating plants, trees, or eating animals, most humans have to kill something to survive/thrive like all other animals on planet earth. Someday humans may decide to evolve akin to trees and live off sunlight, water and soil, but until then we are surrounded by violent animals that claim to be anything but violent animals. have fun!

  15. Miha Posavec  February 11, 2013 at 9:25 am

    I understand human behavior as a response of fulfilment to our basic needs, both physical (eat,drink, sleep, reproduction..) and psychological (to be loved and accepted, to be secure and positively touched…). If we get positive and stimulative impulses from our environment that meet our needs we behave much differently than aggressive and selfish. We live in a society where debt makes money and we are taught to be the best, rather to be better person every day, our environment does not provide security and trust and we blame it all to the genes. It is not that simple and it is not entirely our fault, because cultural environment that educates us reflects what it knows, what it think it knows or what does not want us to know. So we our self have to look hard to find the correct knowledge. I do believe that we all are “tabula rasa” and all our knowledge, fears, interests and behavior is taught to us, consciously or unconsciously. We can not talk about human nature regardless of basic human needs, which should be fulfilled by outside impulses, nor we can study biology outside the context of environment. So debate nature versus nurture is pointless and long known to be false because both genotype and phenotype make biology together.

  16. The article and the comments I find incredibly interesting. Now I am not a scientist just a fellow human wading through our current chaotic mess of a society. The things I have seen in my life are quite incredible and awe inspiring. Quite a lot of the peo  March 12, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    The article and the comments I find incredibly interesting. Now I am not a scientist just a fellow human wading through our current chaotic mess of a society. So please don’t get all touchy if something I’ve written doesn’t line up scientifically for you or even resonate with your particular vibration. The things I have seen in my life are quite incredible and awe inspiring. Quite a lot of the people in it are just as colorful as the things I’ve experienced. Perhaps, the most intriguing is that none of it can truly be scientifically weighed. The Humans I have come in to contact with are unpredictable because the amount of environmental and psychological manipulation they were exposed to is all in varying degrees. For me there is no control group. One thing for sure some of the people I have met whom have gone through some very violent and disturbing incidents are perhaps the most gentle, understanding, and wise. Wilst the ones who have walked unscathed with a silver spoon, if you will, are of the more cold calculated psychopathic nature. They must have had more time to be so calculated while the others were to busy surviving. Some studies would find this scenario impossible while others would find evidence to support it. I’ve seen more violence come from people claiming to be peaceful and more peaceful actions from those known as renegades or “outlaws”. Harnessing a balance rather than a specific stance on a subject I hold in higher regard personally. I’d rather not fall victim to the polarization people are so easily drawn to. Realizing that it is what it is, going with the flow is much “nicer” on me personally.

    • Bonnie White  March 12, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      It is hard to “go with the flow” in a culture weighted politically, legally and socially toward financial dominance.

  17. Bonnie White  March 12, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    And, it is very difficult to open the eyes of someone who has actually paid a lot of money and dedicated a lot of time to become indoctrinated. It is like convincing someone who has been programmed to fight and kill humans of another race that those people really do have thoughts, love, feelings, compassion, understanding, intelligence–just like them. They have a hard time reconciling their past actions and it is, to them, better to continue living a lie than to face their own mental consequences.

  18. Lacy  March 15, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    So, maybe we did not, after all ‘inherit’ sin from Adam and Eve.

  19. Swathish Kumar  May 10, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    We all are being brainwashed to believe that we can’t be brainwashed.

  20. Adrian  May 10, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    If anyone is interested in looking at the full article: Link

  21. Patricia  May 11, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Please fix the headline – violent, not violet!

  22. Curt Prasky  November 10, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    The way the language is used in this article seems to suggest that the words “corruption” and “violence” are synonyms. I disagree with that suggestion.

    It may be true that cooperation is “typically” beneficial, but it is certain that this is not always so. I have heard police spokespeople and representatives of “women’s groups” urge citizens to “cooperate” with an armed robber or rapist. I fail to understand how cooperating with a robber or rapist can lead to a social “good”.


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