Under the current global circumstances, understanding how to maintain a cooperative and cohesive mind set within a population, can help politicians and scientists to broach difficult policies and rules in a way that will foster togetherness and community spirit, rather than a divisive contrary response from the general public.
Altruism is regarded by neuroscientists and psychologists as an important part of social cooperation. Having a society that is prepared to sacrifice something small for the good of the whole is a desirable outcome, especially in these dark and troubled times.
According to Fehr and Gintis (2007), cooperation is defined as ‘one individual pays a cost to others to receive a benefit.’ The cost could be material, emotional or physical, from as little as a verbal compliment to cheer someone up to the donation of a proportion of a salary to charity. Scans of test subjects, suggests that for every act of altruism or cooperation, the reward centres in the brain are activated, giving one a sense of mild pleasure or fulfilment.
There are many factors which are known to impact how we perceive altruism, most of which have been researched extensively. Rand and colleagues (2014) proved that placing time pressures over decisions to help, will often result in greater levels of charitable donations. Declerck and others (2014) discovered that inhaling oxytocin significantly improved levels of cooperation.
Other studies have concluded that social stimuli or cues will drastically affect whether a person is likely to be cooperative. For example, just knowing whether an individual has a history of kindness and cooperation, will contribute to another returning the favour. It’s almost as though we have a built-in notion of ‘paying it forward’. We give freely expecting nothing in return in the hope that should we experience difficulties in the future, someone will do the same for us.
That is how social cohesion works. In terms of survival, evolution values group harmony by giving us the tools with which to improve our community spirit. We are highly social creatures, building and fostering relationships, using complex language to communicate and developing expressions and feelings to analyse and empathise with others in our…