Status, Dominance and Motive Blindness

From Robin Hanson at Overcoming Bias, commenting on a study about assessment of social power:

Humans clearly attend closely to status, an important part of status is dominance, and a key way we show dominance is to tell others what to do.  Whoever gets to tell someone else what to do is dominating, and affirming their own status.  But we are also clearly built to not notice most of our status moves, and so we attribute them to other motives. And as long as we are making up motives, we might as well make up the most admired of motives, altruism.

“So we tend to think we tell others what to do in order to help them, and not to dominate them.”

Well-stated, I think.


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