People want to help each other, even when it costs them something, and even when the motivations to help don’t always align, a new study suggests.
In research published today in the journal Science Advances, sociologists found that people overwhelmingly chose to be generous to others – even to strangers, and even when it seems one motivation to help might crowd out another.
It is the first study to examine how all the established motivations to be generous interact with one another.
“We wanted to do an exhaustive study to see what the effects of those motivations would be when combined – because they are combined in the real world, where people are making choices about how generous or kind to be with one another,” said David Melamed, lead author of the study and an associate professor of sociology at The Ohio State University. Melamed is also affiliated with Ohio State’s Translational Data Analytics Institute.
The study involved more than 700 people, and was designed to help researchers understand prosocial behavior.
“It means doing something for someone else at a cost to yourself,” Melamed said. “So one example would be paying for the person behind you’s order at the coffee shop. Or right now, wearing your mask in public. It’s a cost to you; it’s uncomfortable. But you contribute to the public good by wearing it and not spreading the virus.”
Scientists previously had determined that four motivators influenced people to behave in a way that benefited other people.
One: The recipient of a kindness is inclined to do something nice for the giver in return. Two: A person is motivated to do something nice to someone that she saw be generous to a third person. Three: A person is likely to do good in the presence of people in their network who might reward their generosity. And four: A person is likely to “pay it forward” to someone else if someone has done something nice for her.
Those four motivators had all been studied isolated from one another, and some had been studied as a pair. But until this experiment, scientists had not conducted a comprehensive study about how the four motivators might affect one another in the real world, where the motivation to be kind to others might be influenced by multiple factors.
“In the real world, the conditions under which people are nice to each other are not isolated – people are embedded in their networks, and they’re going about their daily lives and coming into contact with things that will affect their decisions,” Melamed said. “And these experiments show that all the motivations work. If you want to maximize prosocial behavior, it was a really great thing to see.”
For this study, which was done online, participants had to decide how much of a 10-point endowment to give to other people. The points had monetary value to the participants; giving cost them something.
Then the researchers created different scenarios that combined one or all four of the potential motivators for giving.
Melamed said that prior to the experiment, he thought the motivations for kindness might crowd one another out.
For example, a person may be less apt to indirectly reward another’s generosity toward a third person when he is focused on directly giving back help that he received.
“People have a self-bias,” he said. “If you do something nice for me, I may weigh that more than if I see you do something nice for someone else. But we found that all the motivators still show up as predictors of how much a person is willing to give to someone else, regardless of how the differing motivators are combined.”
This research helps us understand the remarkable quantity and diversity of prosocial behavior we see in humans, Melamed said.
“From an evolutionary perspective, it’s kind of perplexing that it even exists, because you’re decreasing your own fitness on behalf of others,” Melamed said. “And yet, we see it in bees and ants, and humans and throughout all of nature.”
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Generosity towards others
- Fundraiser to build home for Doon coupleon April 19, 2021 at 5:00 pm
DOON—Thinking about the generosity of friends, relatives and total strangers gets Randy and Rosie Van Engen of Doon choked up.
- Arthur Kopit: Abiding Curiosity, Relentless Generosityon April 19, 2021 at 1:16 pm
Along with his provocative, form-breaking plays, his great work of the last few decades was a mentorship style that was expansive, dialogic, opinionated but undogmatic.
- Gift of Life honors donors and recipients during National Donate Life Monthon April 19, 2021 at 4:00 am
Taneisha Campbell loves working for Gift of Life Michigan because it allows her to share her story, so that others might see the good that comes from organ donation.
- Gift Of Life: One person’s organ donation can save eight lives and improve the lives of 75 otherson April 18, 2021 at 7:30 am
Organ donation saved the life of Sarah Ann Scantamburlo, and she's been living it to the fullest ever since. "I have days when I am really tired but I work 50 hours a week. I have two kids in travel ...
- Ramadan is time for higher virtues of love, kindness, generosity, says Osinbajoon April 14, 2021 at 10:21 am
As the Ramadan fast progresses, Yemi Osinbajo, has called on Muslim faithful in Nigeria to rededicate themselves to higher virtues ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Generosity towards others
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Individual and collective foraging in autonomous search agents with human interventionon April 19, 2021 at 10:46 am
Humans and other complex organisms exhibit intelligent behaviors as individual agents and as groups of coordinated agents. They can switch between independent and collective modes of behavior, and ...
- Op-Ed: Does Healthcare Understand Human Behavior?on April 18, 2021 at 9:05 am
This is, of course, a much bigger problem than healthcare behavior change. Why, despite knowing what is needed for better health, do most of us have such a hard time aligning our present actions with ...
- The Big Money Index: Human Nature and Yellow Lightson April 16, 2021 at 1:27 pm
In his Weekend Reading Notes to investors, while commenting on the Big Money Index, Louis Navellier wrote: Q1 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Yellow Traffic Lights And Human Behavior Odd ...
- Quad Expands Partnership With Package InSight to Help Brands Better Understand the Impact of Design on Consumer Behavioron April 16, 2021 at 3:03 am
Quad Expands Partnership With Package InSight to Help Brands Better Understand the Impact of Design on Consumer Behavior ...
- Chemical pollutants in the environment can alter animal and human behavioron April 14, 2021 at 10:17 pm
International scientists from around the world are warning that chemical pollutants in the environment have the potential to alter animal and human behavior.