When someone shows kindness or fairness, some or even most people try to take advantage of them, a recent study has found.

One common goal that we all tend to have in life is the desire to achieve and succeed. Although this may seem like a great goal for all of us, at what price does it come?

Exploiting Kindness or Fairness

As much as we would like to discredit the idea, there are many of us that would do anything to succeed, even if it means having a disregard for other’s feelings.

Researchers state that when someone shows kindness or fairness, some or even most people try to exploit them. They have no thought of betrayal or backstabbing. These people, the so-called Machiavellians, believe that everyone shares the same mindset as theirs. There are few people who are not part of these selfish acts.

There is a questionnaire that test for such traits of the Machiavellians. The questionnaire simply scans the brain while they play a game of trust. The test shows that Machiavellians’ brains kicked into overdrive when they encounter someone who showed signs of being cooperative. During this period, they are immediately figuring out how to reap the benefits of the current situation.

The Game of Trust

The game of trust contained four stages and a mixture of people who scored high and low with traits of Machiavellianism. They were given $5 worth of Hungarian currency and had to decide how much to invest in their counter-part. The money that was invested multiplied three times the original amount as it was passed to their partner.

The partner was really A.I. controlled but was thought to be another student. Then they proceeded to decide how much to return and it was pre-programmed to either be a fair amount (around ten percent) or a completely unfair amount (about a third of the first investment). So if the test subject chose to invest $1.60, a fair return would be about $1.71, whereas unfair return would be around $1.25.

Afterward, the roles were switched. The A.I. began an investment, which was three times the amount, and the test participant chose how much to return. This allowed them to take advantage of their partner’s earlier unfair investment or to reciprocate their earlier fairness.

The results and what they mean

The Machiavellians ended up with more cash at the end than the other participants. Both groups punished unfairness, but the Machiavellians failed to show any kind of fair returns or investments to their counterpart.

They exhibited a sharper response in neural activity compared to non-Machiavellians when their partner was fair. The non-Machiavellians showed the opposite neural activity when their partner was not fair. When the counterpart played fairly, the non-Machiavellians didn’t show any extra brain activity.

All this basically means that for the Machiavellians, the behavior that aims to take advantage of other people is just a second nature and comes automatically.

Machiavellians suppress any emotional reaction and tend to determine how to best their partner’s misguided play. They do not often look at things from other people’s perspectives, and they watch others’ behaviors in social situations so they can easily take advantage.

Writer’s Thoughts and Conclusion

I would like to say that you can always trust a fellow human to do the right thing by you, but at this day and age, that sort of thing is rare. Almost everyone is subject to the benefit of a gain.


  1. bigthink.com
  2. www.sciencedirect.com

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Dimitrios Komvos

    They are only figuring this out now? Seriously?

  2. I Watchful Eye

    Hey Slip. Love your article. How do I get into contact with you?

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