Our need for self-promotion

According to evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban, our brain is modular. Every module fulfills its own purpose. Kurzban asserts that the purpose of the consciousness module of our brain is to promote ourselves. The aim of this self-promotion is to achieve the best possible position in society for ourselves and for our offspring to ensure that our genes will prosper.

Our innate need to promote ourselves is one of the main obstacles in online communication. When employed in an online conversation our need to self promote gives other participants the impression that we rather listen to ourselves than to them. This is detrimental to the conversation since it diminishes the chances of other participants opening up.

A major task for moderators is to stimulate participants to tone down their self-promotion. They should make us of the anti-dote that Kurzban provides us with. In the vision of Kurzban, the Achilles heel of our self-promotion is that it enables others to expose us as hypocrites since our self-promotion is not necessarily backed up by our deeds. When exposed as hypocrites we probably will be ostracized by our peers – which is the total opposite of our aim to achieve the best possible position in society.

By subtly reminding participants of the potential grave downside of self-promotion and the potential upsides of a warm style of communications moderators should try to nudge all to abstain from blatant self-promotion during online communication.