If people are naturally kind, why is there so much cruelty?

Unthinkable: Evolutionary biology suggests our natural instinct is to be nice

Research in behavioural psychology suggests sharing and collaboration are instinctive from an early age. Photograph: Getty

Research in behavioural psychology suggests sharing and collaboration are instinctive from an early age. Photograph: Getty

Are humans naturally inclined towards cruelty or kindness? The question has perplexed philosophers and scientists for centuries.

The Chinese thinker Mencius was one of the earliest proponents of the “human nature is good” theory, while Jean-Jacques Rousseau made the case forcefully during the Enlightenment. More recently, psychologists and evolutionary biologists point to evidence of kindness “hard wired” in toddlers. Sharing and collaboration seem to be instinctive from an early age.

The Irish Times
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