LIFE

Proven By Science: Nice Guys Don't Finish Last

Turns out we choose kindness over cash.

14/11/2016 9:54 AM AEDT | Updated 14/11/2016 7:23 PM AEDT
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"I don't have much money but I bought you a coffee. Do you love me now?"

In good news after the past week's world events, it turns out that not all humans are selfish.

A recent U.K study took a look at choosing a generous partner over a wealthy one, and it looks like kindness wins out over cash.

"We recruited 788 participants from an online crowd-sourcing website to take part in an online, modified version of a classic anthropological experiment, The Dictator Game," Nichola Raihani, researcher at the University College London, UK, told The Huffington Post Australia.

The survey group was comprised of 375 females and 410 males (three participants did not specify their sex).

"Individuals interact in pairs as "dictators" and "receivers". Dictators are given some money and told that they can give as much (or as little) as they like to receivers. Receivers have no control over the allocation and must accept any offer the dictator makes."

lucylui
Is it all about the money (money, money)?

The game was modified in a few important ways, to allow the study to determine how people trade off ability versus willingness to give when choosing partners.

"First, we gave rich dictators five times as much money to share with receivers compared to their poorer counterparts, meaning rich ones could offer higher absolute payoffs -- even when relatively stingy. We also modified wealth stability. In stable environments, the rich stayed rich and the poor stayed poor, whereas in unstable environments, current wealth was not predictive of wealth in the next game," Raihani said.

"Finally, receivers could choose or avoid dictators on the basis of their reputation for having been fair or stingy in the previous game. Receivers observed the decisions made by two different dictators in a first game -- and then decided which of these individuals they would like to choose as their own partner in a second game. We were especially interested in how receivers prioritised wealth over fairness in a partner when these traits were opposed to one another."

The results were pleasantly surprising.

"People preferred 'poor-fair' over 'rich-stingy' partners in unstable environments, where current wealth was not predictive of future wealth. This was what we expected -- people should place more emphasis on fairness than on wealth when wealth is unstable," Raihani said.

Photo by Rafa Elias
Sally is stoked because her new partner is kind and generous. Money is just plastic, right?

"People also preferred 'poor-fair' partners over 'rich-stingy' ones, even in stable environments where the poor stayed poor. This result was perhaps the most counter-intuitive of all the findings in the study -- 57 percent of people stated a preference for a 'poor-fair' partner over a 'rich-stingy' one, even in an environment where poor partners stayed poor."

As expected, when wealth and fairness were aligned, people typically picked the rich partner, though when choosing between wealthy but tight, and poor but fair partners, the majority went for the latter.

That's one small win for the generous, not-so-wealthy among us. Phew!

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