By Tobias Kordsmeyer

When one considers a general and universal description of humans’ motivation to act, probably reproduction, or biological fitness, comes to mind (Darwin, 1859). However, there is an abundance of residual behaviour, across humans’ life domains (e.g., cultural, social, occupational), which is unexplained by striving for biological fitness, not even in terms of inclusive fitness (Hamilton, 1964). Moreover, there are many otherwise successful people who decide to remain childless, despite having the necessary prerequisites (being fertile, having a suitable partner and other required resources; Keizer, Dyjkstra, & Jansen, 2008).
Hence, it seems that biological, or inclusive, fitness is not a suitable candidate for a general description of humans’ motivation to act. Instead, I would like to propose that what people strive for across social, cultural and biological domains could be described as “gaining and accumulating value”, or “having an impact or influence”, in a broad sense. These terms would include diverse behaviours and their motivations, such as biological reproduction or attaining a high social status.
This perspective, when fleshed out in more detail, could serve as a new descriptive framework in theoretical and empirical studies of human behaviour and motivation, in several social sciences, such as evolutionary and social psychology, sociology, and philosophy, by enriching both proximate and functional explanations of human behaviour.


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Tobias Kordsmeyer



Published: 27 Aug, 2016

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