Humble people are more likely to offer time to someone in need than arrogant people are, according to findings by Baylor University researchers published online in The Journal of Positive Psychology.
"The findings are surprising because in nearly 30 years of research on helping behavior, very few studies have shown any effect of personality variables on helping," said lead author Jordan LaBouff, Ph.D., a lecturer in psychology at the University of Maine, who collaborated on the research while a doctoral candidate at Baylor. "The only other personality trait that has shown any effect is agreeableness, but we found that humility predicted helping over and above that."
In most cases, a person's decision to help someone in need is influenced by temporary personal or situational factors such as time pressure, number of bystanders, momentary feelings of empathy or a person's own distress, said Wade C. Rowatt, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences, who led the study and co-authored the article.
"The research indicates that humility is a positive quality with potential benefits," Rowatt said. "While several factors influence whether people will volunteer to help a fellow human in need, it appears that humble people, on average, are more helpful than individuals who are egotistical or conceited."
The research involved three studies of college students:
"Our discovery here is that the understudied trait of humility predicts helpfulness," Rowatt said. "Important next steps will be to figure out whether humility can be cultivated and if humility is beneficial in other contexts, such as scientific and medical advancements or leadership development."
Other research collaborators are Baylor doctoral candidate Megan K. Johnson and Jo-Ann Tsang, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor.
The research was funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
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