6 Characteristics of Human Nature

These 6 Characteristics of human nature are based on study of human action. Study of human action is the study of what people do, what people say or what people intend. 

1. Laziness

When we study human action, we find that all human beings value leisure. We like to take it easy, and so we are always trying to shorten the time needed to perform any task. We always seek the easiest way to do anything. In fact, we are structured mentally in such a way that we cannot consciously choose a more difficult way to accomplish something if we can choose an easier way. Given a choice between an easier way and a harder way, we will always choose the easier option because the sooner we get the job done the sooner we can enjoy.

So, in a sense we are all lazy. This is neither good not bad. It is only what we do as a result of this laziness that is good or bad. All human progress comes from people seeking faster and easier ways to get the things we want. Thus, in certain sense, laziness is a motivator of human progress.


2. Greedy

The second characteristics of human nature is that we each try to get the very most with the very least expenditure of money or effort. Given a choice between more or less, we strive to maximize what we get. If we are offered a choice to work for Rs. 500 an hour or Rs.700 an hour, we will choose the Rs.700 an hour option. When offered a choice between a large piece of cake or a smaller one at the same price, we will choose for the larger one. The study of the economics of all human actions, and the study of economics itself is the study of allocation of resources to get the greatest possible output per unit of input. This is rational. sensible and appropriate human behavior.

In this sense, we are all greedy. This is again neither good nor bad. We are greedy, we are never satisfied, and we continuously striving for more and more. We are never really contented.

3. Ambition

Each of us is always striving to improve the quality of our lives. All human actions are motivated by a desire for improvement in our condition. In fact, we cannot consciously act to worsen our situation. Even a person who jumps off a building to commit suicide believes that he would be better off by putting an end to his life than by being alive. We may not always succeed, but every action that we take is an attempt to be better off than we would be without the action.

In this sense then, every human being is ambitious. We may be ambitious for different things or may have more or less opportunities to realize or ambitions but, we are all ambitious. 

4. Self Interest

The fourth characteristic is that each person thinks, feels, acts and experiences happiness or sorrow, by and for himself/herself. Therefore, we primarily act from our point of view.

In other words, we are all selfish, centered on ourselves living inside out. Everything we do, even acts of charity, we do because in our personal opinion at that moment it is the best thing for us. Selfishness and self-centeredness render us with a sense of survival.

5. Ignorance

Fifth characteristics is that we all act on the basis of incomplete information because no one in the world can possibly know everything there is to know about one subject.

In this sense, we are all ignorant. No matter how much we learn we must still act with some uncertainty. Some ignorance of the facts often with great ignorance or sometimes with complete ignorance.

6. Vanity

Lastly, as human beings we have an ego. We always think very highly of ourselves. We consider ourselves superior to others in many ways in terms of intelligence, personality, appearance, wealth and so on.

In other words, we are all vain. This is neither good nor bad, it’s just human nature. The cosmetic industry, the fashion industry, and the furnishing industry all appeal to our vanity and certainly not to or basic needs.

This post is inspired and extracted from The Legendary Book that every investor must read.

Value Investing & Behavioral Finance by Parag Parikh

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