Saturday, December 16, 2017

What drives human behavior?

This is from an email I sent to a friend last week. It encapsulates an idea I've been thinking about for a long time . . .

As I believe I have mentioned before to Bruce, in a bar in Portland, in 2014, on a Leadership Exchange trip hosted by the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, and having just returned from China and still a bit jet-lagged, I found myself with three smart people: David Forsell, CEO of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Bill Taft, Leader of LISC Indianapolis and Sherry Siewart, CEO of Downtown Indy.

Somehow we got on the subject of what motivates human behavior. I blurted our Sex, Power and Tribe. For me it was like Einstein's Magic Year, except I'm not that smart and it didn't take a year - it took about 5 minutes.

It has become the lens through which I see all human drama that surrounds me.  It's like I'm living in an experiment and events are results producing data I collect and analyze. I have yet to observe contra-indicating samples. In fact, the sexual harassment eruptions and the partisan politics of the past few weeks have allowed me to infer, with increasing certitude, that there is a hierarchy of those motivations. And it is:

1. Tribe
2. Power
3. Sex

I'd love to talk with you guys about this at some time. What convinced me that the order was as shown is that power differentials are used to instigate sex. Thus, sex is subject to the influence of power.

The tribal behavior of politicians, abandoning one tribal affinity: patriotism, for another more important one: party, (but which could also be religion) shows me that these guys would rather get elected than get laid or saved. But there are lots of examples where devotion to country (membership in a tribe) accounts for the seemingly irrational choice to make the ultimate sacrifice. Too bad that military service is optional in America (unlike Israel) and the experience of battle or at least the kind of bonding that even occurs in peacetime deployment, isn't a cultural foundation that every citizen (even women) understand.

All for now.  Your comment about how the GOP is rotting got me thinking. How could a political party rot? If you subscribe to this human motivation taxonomy you can understand why so much dysfunction can be the consequence of blind allegiance to tribe. It doesn't make sense because it doesn't need to.

Further the affiant sayeth not :)