Humility encourages helpfulness, study showsPsychologists have found evidence that ‘humble’ people have a higher propensity to give up time for other people compared to ‘arrogant’ people. The research, which supports intuitive understanding on the matter, was conducted by researchers from Baptist institute, Baylor University. It was recently published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.
Whilst it may seem a self-evident finding, psychologists say it is something of a breakthrough:
"The findings are surprising because in nearly 30 years of research on helping behaviour, very few studies have shown any effect of personality variables on helping,"said main author Jordan LaBouff, lecturer in psychology at the University of Maine. "The only other personality trait that has shown any effect is agreeableness, but we found that humility predicted helping over and above that." The choice to help another is usually affected by temporary factors, for example, time constraint, number of people around, sense of empathy or distress.
"The research indicates that humility is a positive quality with potential benefits," member of the research team, 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."
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Tri-part studyThe study consisted of three investigations of college students:
The first study, a subjective study, found that participants who considered themselves helpful also tended to consider themselves humble – even when other personality factors, such as ‘agreeableness’ were controlled.
In the second study, humble participants were found to offer up more of their time to help a putative fellow student, who was recently injured, with their studies.
The final study was a word association test which found that participants describing themselves would often associate humility with their helpfulness.
The next step, the researchers say, is to find out how humility can be fostered and how it can be useful in other areas, such as commerce and medical research.