Why it doesn't pay to be just nice – you also need to be intelligent

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New research has revealed how people's intelligence, rather than their personality traits, leads to success.

Researchers at the Universities of Bristol, Minnesota and Heidelberg devised a series of games to find out which factors lead to when interact in social and workplace situations.

Their findings, due to be published in the Journal of Political Economy, showed that people with a higher IQ displayed 'significantly higher' levels of cooperation, which in turn led to them earning more money as part of the game.

The failure of individuals with lower intelligence to appropriately follow a consistent strategy and estimate the future consequences of their actions accounted for these different outcomes.

Personality traits – such as agreeableness, conscientiousness, trust and generosity—also affect behaviour, but in smaller measure, and only initially.

The researchers conclude, based on their findings, that a society is cohesive if people are smart enough to be consistent in their strategies, and to foresee the social consequences of their actions, including the consequences for others.

Professor Eugenio Proto, from the Department of Economics at the University of Bristol, said: "We wanted to explore what factors make us effective social animals. In other words, what enables us to behave optimally in situations when cooperation is potentially beneficial not only to us, but to our neighbours, people in the same country or who share the same planet.

"People might naturally presume that people who are nice, conscientious and generous are automatically more cooperative. But, through our research, we find overwhelming support for the idea that intelligence is the primary condition for a socially cohesive, cooperative society. A good heart and have an effect too but it's transitory and small.

"An additional benefit of higher intelligence in our experiment, and likely in real life, is the ability to process information faster, hence to accumulate more extensive experience, and to learn from it. This scenario can be applied to the workplace, where it's likely that intelligent people who see the bigger picture and work cooperatively, will ultimately be promoted and financially rewarded."

The findings have potentially important implications for policy, especially in the education sector, as well as international trade.

Andis Sofianos, from the Department of Economics at the University of Heidelberg, said: "The core principle of working cooperatively and seeing the bigger picture also applies to , where there is overwhelming evidence that free trade is a non-zero sum game i.e. all parties could benefit.

"With education, our results suggest that focussing on intelligence in early childhood could potentially enhance not only the economic success of the individual, but the level of cooperation in society in later life."

The research involved four different games which were representative of different and very specific strategic situations. Interactions were repeated, giving time and opportunity for each participant to observe and to reflect on the past behaviour of the other.

Games used for the study included Prisoner's Dilemma, Stag Hunt and Battle of Sexes, which are often used in game theory—the science of logical decision making in humans, animals, and computers.

Where the strategy involved a trade-off between current and future gains, those with a higher IQ won more money per round. The failure of individuals with lower to find and follow an optimal strategy and appropriately estimate the future consequences of their actions accounted for the difference in outcomes.

Perhaps surprisingly, conscientious people also tended to be more cautious, which in turn reduced their cooperative behaviour.


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More information: Intelligence, Personality and Gains from Cooperation in Repeated Interactions: www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp6121.pdf
Journal information: Journal of Political Economy

Citation: Why it doesn't pay to be just nice – you also need to be intelligent (2018, March 20) retrieved 20 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-03-doesnt-nice-intelligent.html
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Mar 20, 2018
IQ and the Wealth of Nation

Mar 20, 2018
Among other things, then, the claims of Trump necessarily being stupid are discounted. It was evident from the start that much of what Trump said and did was true or indicative of a truth. His use of tweets is attacked, but he has proved that government is not as serious as they try to make the "rank and file" believe. Most if not all of them just sit back all day and do nothing toward governance. A reason for this is that government is in charge of so much that is mentioned to the public. They are not struggling with wit and intelligence against problems from nowhere, they create problems then "solve" them to benefit themselves.

Mar 20, 2018
they create problems then "solve" them to benefit themselves.
The only societies that ever created near-majority or majority sized middle classes seem to have been those with big governments, significant taxation and many regulations on extreme behaviors of markets. I'm sure if a free market or libertarian government had ever done it, we would hear that example cited endlessly instead of never. Majority working-poverty is one problem that big government regulating capitalism has solved repeatedly around the world. Works for me --literally.

Mar 21, 2018
The fetishing of intelligence continues.

Mar 21, 2018
Hmmmm........no mention of morality or conscious.
Usually there is the claim of game theory at work. ( It's the other guys fault for not reciprocating.) Has there ever been in our recorded history a civilization that did not caste itself when its population was high? AND did not justify the casing as due to the lack of intelligence of everybody else but the select?

Mar 23, 2018
Guys, we all know that generalizing from such a study is absolutely pointless, as so many other factors come into play when choosing who will get a promotion. Maybe IQ account for 5% of getting a promotion, but in my case, licking my manager's balls every Saturday night surely accounted for the remaining 100%.

Apr 17, 2018
Mmmh...this study entirely fails to account for conditions such as Aspergers Syndrome, which is usually characterised by a high IQ and poor or deficient social skills. There are also people with an intellectual disability who are more likely to have a lower IQ, but can be quite adept at certain aspects of social behaviour (& be excellent and consistent team players). As for Trump; he might be intelligent (Ahem), but he is definitely NOT a team player. Being a team player tends to work better if you are not a virtual psychopath. Among other factors, perhaps the role of empathy (your ability to relate to others) within teamwork should have been evaluated as well. Empathy is NOT dependent on the level of one's IQ. Clearly the researchers failed to check for factors that might have given more considered & less flawed findings. Just goes to show that it can be dangerous to limit too much the number of factors considered within a study, when the subject is that complex. cont...

Apr 17, 2018
...cont

It can also lead to flawed, skewed, or even false results or conclusions.

Best Regards, DH66

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