‘BEHAVIOURAL psychologists will surely have a field day in future analysing how the British public responded to the threat from coronavirus by stockpiling toilet roll.To me, it bears all the hallmarks of the ‘Prisoners’ Dilemma’, a famous paradox used in game theory to illustrate why everything from society to international relations is often hobbled by human beings’ innate selfishness.’
Game Theory famously was the basis for the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction] strategy, in the Cold War and Henry Kissinger’s brutal Vietnam and Cambodia war crimes.
Back to Scotland. Everybody else is panic-buying the toilet rolls so I must too. We’re all selfish. That’s about all game theory has to tell us, or appears to, but back in the 50s, when psychologists actually tested game theory with human beings, they found that, often, they did things that were selfless, empathetic and in the interests of the wider population.
So, I was in a long queue yesterday, buying stuff to take round to a food bank. Nobody in the queue was using that as a justification for their greed but when I got to the food bank, I was not the only one who had done so. That night on Reporting Scotland, we heard quite old folk, I’d say, explaining that they’d bought two big packs of toilet rolls because they knew ‘old folk’ who couldn’t get out to buy them. Then I remembered the report of shop owners putting together bags with soap, hand gel and masks to hand out to elderly people around the Falkirk area.
Here’s a thing, do the empty shelves headlining on our screens and in our newspapers tell us as much about journalists innate negativity as they do about our ‘innate selfishness?’