In a societal dilemma, an individual makes a risk trade-off between the group interest and some competing interest. Until now, we've ignored those competing interests: it's been mostly selfish interests, with the occasional competing moral interest. It's time to fully explore those competing interests.
In general, there are a variety of competing interests that can cause someone to defect and not act according to the group norm:
- Selfish self-interest. This is the person who cheats, defrauds, steals, and otherwise puts his own selfish interest ahead of the group interest. In extreme cases, he might be a sociopath.
- Self-preservation interest. Someone who is motivated by self-preservation—fear, for example—is much more likely to behave according to her own interest than to adhere to the group norm. For instance, someone might defect because she's being blackmailed. Or she might have a drug addiction, or heavy debts. Jean Valjean from Les Miserables, stealing food to feed himself and his family, is a very sympathetic defector.
- Ego-preservation interest. There are a lot of things people do because they want to preserve a vision of who they are as a person. Someone might defect because he believes—rightly or wrongly—that others are already defecting at his expense and he can't stand being seen as a sucker. Broker Rhonda Breard embezzled $11.4 million from her clients, driven both by greed and the need to appear rich.
- Other psychological motivations. This ...