People behave socially and 'well' even without rules: study

Jan 16, 2012

Fundamentally people behave in a social and rather compassionate and "good" way rather than aggressively, even without specified rules. That is the result of a study from the Institute for Science of Complex Systems at the MedUni Vienna under the leadership of Stefan Thurner and Michael Szell. They analysed the behaviour of more than 400,000 participants of the “Virtual Life” game “Pardus” on the Internet. The findings are that only two percent of all actions are aggressive, even though the game would make it easy for war-like attacks with spaceships, for example.

Millions of human interactions were assessed during the study which included actions such as communication, founding and ending friendships, trading goods, sleeping, moving, however also starting hostilities, attacks and punishment. The game does not suggest any rules and everyone can live with their avatar (i.e. with their “game character” in the ) as they choose. “And the result of this is not anarchy”, says Thurner. “The organise themselves as a social group with good intents. Almost all the actions are positive.”

The interactions were fed into an “alphabet” by the researchers, “similar to how the genetic code of DNA was decoded 15 years ago”, says Thurner. “From this we get a pattern which reflects how people tick”. However, there is quite a high potential for aggression: so, for example, if a negative action is inflicted, the probability that the player will subsequently also act aggressively shoots up more than tenfold, even to about 30 percent.

Thurner and his team were also able to present by means of the pattern that the whole game is a reflection of reality. “For example, we could adopt measured values one for one for communication networks. A further measurement is that almost no one has more than 150 friends, the so-called Dunbar’s number, regardless of whether in the real or the virtual world.” The study has now been published in the specialist journal PLoS One.

The long-term aim is to detect “phase transitions in societies” early on using these measurements and the behavioural patterns researched in the virtual world in order to be able to forecast group dynamic social processes and to be able to react in the event of these cases in good time. “It is possible, for example, that through certain conditions the aggression level, that has increased tenfold, remains extensively in place and therefore systemically for a longer time, which bears comparison with a drastic radicalisation in societies. Consequently, we could react to it in good time.” A current example for such a phase transition in society has been the relatively surprising “Arab Spring” with its many protests, uprisings and revolutions, which, as is well known, were targeted against the ruling totalitarian regimes in many countries.

Explore further: Local education politics 'far from dead'

More information: “Emergence of good conduct, scaling and Zipf laws in human behavioral sequences in an online world.” Stefan Thurner, Michael Szell, Roberta Sinatra. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29796. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029796

Journal reference: PLoS ONE search and more info website

Provided by Medical University of Vienna

4.1 /5 (30 votes)

Related Stories

The family that plays together stays together?

Apr 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- “Get off the computer and go play outside.” So go the words heard in homes around the country as parents and children clash over the social benefits of video games.

Study finds sick kids have fewer friends

Dec 07, 2010

A new study reveals that sick teens are more isolated than other kids, but they do not necessarily realize it and often think their friendships are stronger than they actually are.

Is there a hidden bias against creativity?

Nov 18, 2011

CEOs, teachers, and leaders claim they want creative ideas to solve problems. But creative ideas are rejected all the time. A new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the ...

Relationships get help from social networking games

Feb 23, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Think social network games are just for kids? A recent Michigan State University study found that many adults are playing games such as Facebook’s “Farmville” to help initiate, develop and ...

Strong social networks mean less stress for parents

Nov 10, 2011

A U of A professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy has found that those conversations with fellow parents around the barbeque or at the playground can be important to maintaining a happy family.

Entanglement can help in classical communication

Mar 30, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- When most of us think of entanglement, our minds jump immediately to quantum communication. "Entanglement has become very well known and useful in quantum communication," Robert Prevedel tells PhysOrg.com. Preved ...

Recommended for you

Local education politics 'far from dead'

12 hours ago

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

12 hours ago

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

15 hours ago

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recall

15 hours ago

People learn better and recall more when given the impression that they will soon have to teach newly acquired material to someone else, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

Understanding the economics of human trafficking

Jul 28, 2014

Although Europe is one of the strictest regions in the world when it comes to guaranteeing the respect of human rights, the number of people trafficked to or within the EU still amounts to several hundred ...

User comments : 19

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Deadbolt
5 / 5 (9) Jan 16, 2012
Of course they do. Laws exist not to suppress the masses, but the minority who spoil it for everyone. Laws also exist to settle disputes WHEN they do occur, but by en large society is peaceful because people are peaceful, not because we are psychos only restrained by the fear of arrest.

The majority of people are good. People are quick to lose hope in humanity based on the minority. It's unfortunate that it's often the case that ruthless minorities get drawn into powerful positions where being ruthless is an advantage, but although they look after themselves foremost, the general public care about the people around them and this is why society works.

Deathclock
2.8 / 5 (11) Jan 16, 2012
The phrase is "by and large", not "by en large".

I agree with what you said though, I would just prefer if someone corrected me in a similar circumstance... do unto others and all that...
ryggesogn2
1.6 / 5 (26) Jan 16, 2012
Laws exist not to suppress the masses, but the minority who spoil it for everyone.

That's what law is for today, to suppress the masses for the powerful minority.
rwinners
1.8 / 5 (9) Jan 16, 2012
I always get a laugh at such realizations. "We" are who we are... and have been for hundreds of millenia.
I agree with the post directly above; "Freedom" is being used as a shield upon which the common man is eviscerated (mostly financially).
Vendicar_Decarian
3.9 / 5 (20) Jan 17, 2012
The common man doesn't have the guts or the brains to be anything else but what Corporatists permit him to be.

As long as the persuit of money is the primary driver in people's lives then those who have the most money are the primary driver in people's lives.

Lose the money. Gain your freedom.

""Freedom" is being used as a shield upon which the common man is eviscerated (mostly financially)." = rwinners
Sanescience
3.7 / 5 (9) Jan 17, 2012
Our modern environment has change the social ecology to allow the small minority of sociopaths access to nearly everybody. Why do positions of power/wealth which are also incredibly risky and stressful tend to fill with certain kinds of ruthless individuals? Because normal people tend to let the crazy people have their way and build an "official" structure to legitimize and solidify their position.

Until society makes an effort to identify sociopaths and restrict their access to positions of power and influence, then not much is going to change for the general human condition.

I am not talking about some subjective measurement of moral or political philosophy. Science has fairly definitively identified the brain patterns of people who are "disconnected" from certain regions of the brain that are needed to consider the welfare of other human beings.

If someone wants to apply for a "restricted" job, they can be tested by an anonymous provider without revealing their identity.
Sinister1811
1.5 / 5 (8) Jan 17, 2012
Well, of course, that's what they want you to think. But we've all met people we don't like or don't get along with. There's no mention of that here, however.
OldGit
not rated yet Jan 17, 2012
Surely this study has already selected out the great majority of aggressive idiots who play shoot-em-ups, not social games like this
antialias_physorg
4.2 / 5 (9) Jan 17, 2012
Who would have thunk it: Even without commandments people don't go around wantonly inflicting grievous harm on each other.
Why do positions of power/wealth which are also incredibly risky and stressful tend to fill with certain kinds of ruthless individuals?

Because driven people act while those that are content do not. That is the (unfortunate) consequence: evil acts while good only ever reacts (if at all).

Unless we figure out a sure way of detecting in advance who will abuse a system this is how it's going to be.
AWaB
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 17, 2012
Who would have thunk it: Even without commandments people don't go around wantonly inflicting grievous harm on each other.
Why do positions of power/wealth which are also incredibly risky and stressful tend to fill with certain kinds of ruthless individuals?

Because driven people act while those that are content do not. That is the (unfortunate) consequence: evil acts while good only ever reacts (if at all).

Unless we figure out a sure way of detecting in advance who will abuse a system this is how it's going to be.


I like what you're saying, but I think you're slightly off point. I buy this study, that a majority of people are good and well meaning. I also think many people are driven but not bad. I also believe that power corrupts. Many who started off were good and then got diverted on their path through a lack of _____. The blank is b/c I don't know why they changed.
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (7) Jan 17, 2012
I also think many people are driven but not bad.

Some are just callous. Some are downright malicious (not by their own reckoning, though). I attribute it to a certain drive in some to be in constant competition with others.

There are two ways win such a competition: Better yourself or put down others. Those that cannot better themselves (because they are just not that great to begin with or have reached the limit of their abilities) will chose the other way.

Unfortunately that 'put down' method is very effective if you can (unwittingly) enlist the aid of others out to compete - or even the disinterested masses.

I really don't think that those who seek power and got corrupted weren't predisposed to being callous/selfish in the first place. People can make choices. Having power means you have even MORE choices available to you than others do. Saying that it 'corrupted you' is just a cop out. Corruption is a choice.
Shelgeyr
1.5 / 5 (6) Jan 17, 2012
People behave socially and 'well' even without rules...


I think William Golding would probably disagree.
ryggesogn2
1.7 / 5 (23) Jan 17, 2012
put down others

That is very much on display by many of those who are opposed to the concept of the individual, the socialists.
kochevnik
2 / 5 (12) Jan 17, 2012
@ryggesogn2 That's what law is for today, to suppress the masses for the powerful minority.
Yeah that's the job for your Koch handlers, right?
put down others
That is very much on display by many of those who are opposed to the concept of the individual, the socialists.
Ahhhwwwwaaa. Did a socialist cut you off in the ice cream line?
ECOnservative
2.2 / 5 (11) Jan 17, 2012
We will always compete for resources as individuals or larger entities. When those resources only denote status, we compete within civil norms. When those resources denote survival, humans compete with other, more violent means. To argue otherwise is to ignore basic human nature.
ryggesogn2
1.7 / 5 (27) Jan 17, 2012
When those resources denote survival, humans compete with other,

In recent history a system has been developed that enables individuals to satisfy their self-interest by satisfying the self-interest of others. Win-win.
"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
Adam Smith

Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.
Adam Smith

Read more: http://www.brainy...jkEjV4n9

"
rawa1
1.4 / 5 (7) Jan 17, 2012
People behave socially and 'well' even without rules: study
So what? Some people behave badly even with rules. Some psychologists even write articles, when they've nothing new to say. Why they don't write some study just about it?
Callippo
2.4 / 5 (5) Jan 17, 2012
They analysed the behaviour of more than 400,000 participants of the "Virtual Life" game "Pardus" on the Internet
I'm not sure, if we can generalize the on-line gaming experience to real life so much. In Pardus game you're not required to collect food for your survival at daily basis, for example. You can survive well if you will do essentially nothing - so you're not required to fight for anything there. In addition, many people are behaving well because of their religion or moral conviction - it's not "nothing". They just accept other rules, than these ones of the game. But in real life no such external set of rules exists.
nothingness
5 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2012
I'd like to see the study on groups of people that are subjected to many (cultural and legal) rules