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The drive or instinct to increase the respect other people have for us

I would firstly like to expand on how I believe instincts work to influence our behaviour.

Initially, we feel an urge or drive to behave or think in a certain way. For example, to say something we think is funny that might make another person laugh. If successful, we then feel good, at least partly because that person’s respect for us might have improved slightly. Thus, satisfying the instinct provides the reward of feeling good or at least feeling that we did something good (for us).

My belief at the moment is that this need to increase respect is one of the strongest in most people. It competes with other instincts at all times however and, while not always prevailing, often seems to win. For example, this might explain why soldiers perform acts of bravery despite great risk to their life (and thus going against their survival instinct). I suspect it is to increase the respect they receive from not only their fellow soldiers but also everyone else, including their enemies.

Another set of examples are the lengths most people go to in order to look attractive. This of course often competes with (and at times loses to) other instincts such as hunger (when someone wants to lose weight) as well as the instinct to rest when feeling fatigued (if someone wants to exercise to attain a more attractive looking body).

A good example of why simple pleasure seeking does not explain human behaviour is the fact that few people who achieve fame and/or fortune then simply retire from work. Most, if not all, continue to work very hard because the need to increase the respect other people have for them is as strong as it ever was.

I’d next like to distinguish between the perception that someone has a certain amount of respect for us, determined by comparison with that person’s seeming respect for other people – especially those we would call peers, and the drive to increase that respect. It appears to me that knowing someone respects us a certain amount does not really provide a rewarding feeling unless we feel that we have increased that respect or that the person respects us more than we thought they did (perhaps via something they said).

For most people to be happy I believe they need the opportunity to increase the respect other people have for them. Hence someone living alone with few social interactions will not often have this opportunity and is more likely to suffer from depression or at least chronic unhappiness. This is perhaps partly because the need for increasing other people's respect for them isn’t being satisfied and thus an important source of rewarding feelings isn’t being triggered.

If, however, someone living alone is pursuing goals that they think will increase the respect from others, such as writing a book or sailing solo around the world, then this instinct will provide rewarding feelings when they imagine the increase in respect other people will have for them once the project is completed.

Lastly, all people are to some extent competitive animals (as well as socially cooperative and caring ones) and this might derive from the need to increase the respect other people have for us in comparison to the respect they have for other people.

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