Source Newsroom: Baylor University
Newswise — Self-important Scrooge and self-effacing George Bailey of “It’s a Wonderful Life” might well have served as case studies for Baylor University psychologists who probed the question of how arrogance and humility influence helpfulness.
Stingy Scrooge is all “humbug” when it comes to helping. Meanwhile, George may consider himself a failure, but he’s off the charts when it comes to bailing out someone in need, whether that means saving his brother from drowning or helping out his customers during the Depression.
But Baylor researchers — rather than turning to author Charles Dickens or Hollywood for data — conducted three studies of college students, with their results published in The Journal of Positive Psychology. They found that humble people are more likely to offer time to someone in need than arrogant people are.
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.”
Lead author Jordan LaBouff, Ph.D., who collaborated on the research while a doctoral candidate at Baylor, said that until the Baylor study was done, “in nearly 30 years of research on helping behavior, very few studies had shown any effect of personality variables on helping.
“The only other personality trait that has shown any effect is agreeableness, but we found that humility predicted helping over and above that,” said LaBouff, now an assistant professor in psychology at the University of Maine.
Scrooge — boss to the unfortunate Bob Cratchit — might do well to take a page from earlier Baylor research when into comes take to consider Cratchit for a raise.
The more honest and humble an employee is, the higher his or her job performance, as rated by the employees' supervisors in that Baylor study, published in the Journal Personality and Individual Differences.
“Humility and honesty not only correspond with job performance but predicted job performance above and beyond any of five other personality traits, among them like agreeableness and conscientiousness,” Rowatt said.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.
ABOUT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES
The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 26 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit www.baylor.edu/artsandsciences