Prosocial and Antisocial

Fig. 1.

Corruption Perception Index

Corruption Perception Index

Fig. 2.

Global Peace Index 2011

Global Peace Index 2011

Fig. 3.

Failed States Index

Failed States Index

Here we have a remarkable correlation between three maps: Figure 1, the Global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) (2012), Figure 2, the Global Peace Index (2011) and Figure 3, the Failed States Index (2013). If these maps reflect the extent worldwide of our antisocial actions or intentions, how then has our antisocial behaviour proven to be so extensive and what, if anything does this have to do with Theory of Mind (ToM)?

We might well ask whether or not there has been a differential maturation of the ego across our different societies. For instance, if we use the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) as a measure, why does there appear to be less (by degree) in the North-western hemisphere, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand than in say, Malaysia, China or Russia, never mind the others? We can assume from examples of some antisocial temptations such as “Does that person realise he has left his wallet unguarded? Wow, let’s see what’s inside!” or “Will my boss suspect me if I just use a little of today’s shop income to buy some new shoes for the party? I’ll pay it back, of course!” or, as in the case of Ugandan government officials who recently helped themselves to pension moneys (see here for reference), that we all tend to lean towards antisocial actions at some time or other. Why are they more prevalent in some places than in others?

The experimental conclusions reached by Lissek et al. (see Theory of Mind 4- Social Beings above), involving subjects’ perceptions of prosocial and antisocial behaviours, suggest that different areas of the brain process information relating to both anti- and prosocial activity as follows:

Our findings provide evidence for the hypothesis that different processes of ToM, namely the comprehension of cooperation and deception, are associated with different activation patterns of the neural network involved in social cognition.

The results of the experiments refer only to our perceptions of prosocial or antisocial behaviour. There must be a similar controlling influence through ToM of the actions we take resulting from those perceptions. If ToM developed first as a tool for self-defense, it should sit high on the list of social motivations. From this we might surmise that the need for self-defense appears to be much greater in some societies but not in others. There may even be an effort at face value to promote prosocial interactions by some governments but governmental hearts and intentions do not reflect the message. The actions of the Russian oligarchy towards their Ukrainian neighbours recently is a case in point. Their messages speak in one voice but their actions speak of an alternative agenda. Pressure of self-interest, it seems, wins out in many societies around the world.

Moreover, comparing figure 1 above, the 2012 CPI with its 2002 equivalent we can see that antisocial tendencies seem not to have improved over the past ten years:

The 2002 Corruption Perceptions Index ranks 102 countries. Seventy countries [68%] – including many of the world’s most poverty-stricken – score less than 5 out of a clean score of 10 (see more here)

while the 2012 CPI, using a score out of 100 concludes that

While no country has a perfect score, two-thirds [66%] of countries score below 50, indicating a serious corruption problem.

And the cost of this corruption? According to a World Bank report (see here for reference)

A conservative approach to such measurement gives an estimate for annual worldwide bribery of about US $1 trillion dollars (US $1,000 billion.). We obtain figures on bribes from worldwide surveys of enterprises, which ask questions about bribes paid for the operations of the firm (licenses, regulations, etc.), as well as bribes paid to get favorable decisions on public procurement. Further, an estimate on bribes paid by household users of public services is derived from governance and anti-corruption diagnostic surveys.

There is a margin of error in all these estimates, so we should regard them as preliminary orders of magnitude. But the main point is that this is not a relatively small phenomena of a few billion dollars – far from it.

So, fully 66-68% of us worldwide use ToM predominantly for corrupt antisocial practices at the cost of USD 1 trillion. But significantly, why are 2/3rds of that 66% in Africa? I will continue to use the CPI as a useful measure of antisocial behaviours in later discussions on Deceit and Deception and  the Africa situation more fully in The African Dimension.


About johnderonde

UK-based charity worker in Tanzania
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