Being nice:  (This essay is off topic, so skip it if time presses.)
One of the less productive activities healthy people engage in is remorse.  Of course one tries to do the best thing always.  And sometimes one does truly horrendous things.  I am not talking about that.  I am talking about remorse for trivial little things that everyone else on the planet has forgotten.

Such remorse can be painful.  And assuming valid memory it seems quite appropriate.  One can feel remorse for doing trifling things that were unintended.  One can feel romorse for being suspected of doing things one never did and never intended.  And the bad feeling strikes hard, sharp and without warning.  But help is at hand. 

A study has been done (Too good to live ECONOMIST vol. 396 no. 8696 August 15, 2010 page 67 reviewing work done by Craig Parks of Washington State University and Alasko Stone of Desert Research Institute in Nevada) in which the subjects played a “game” with a computer (They were told it was a person.) in which it was possible to cooperate or not and it was possible to be generous or the opposite.  One computer program followed a reasonable strategy, one was very grabby and another – only as a control mind you – was quite generous.  Afterwards they reported that by and large they did not want to deal with the greedy opposing player.  So far so good.  But they were equally eager to avoid the over-generous one.  They felt it made them look bad.

So it seems one can be too selfish and one can be too nice.  People like to be around others who are somewhere in between, or at least so reads this particular study.

But just how nice should one be?  How does one find the right balance to put others at their ease?  There is no need to agonize.  The optimal strategy has to be the community average.  So to make people happy, just be as nice to them as the average person.  And, on average, that is just what everybody does.

The next time a trivial memory troubles you, reflect that you are probably about average and the amount of thoughtlessness you demonstrated was just exactly the right amount to make the others feel good about themselves.

There have been 5,447 visitors counted so far.

Home page.