Study of the Day: Need Help? Turn to Your Most Humble Friends First

Humility is the personality trait that best predicts helpfulness in people, according to the latest research coming out of Texas' Baylor University.

main Alexander Raths shutterstock_79971964.jpg

PROBLEM: People's decisions to offer their assistance are often influenced by factors that are circumstantial -- time pressure, the number of bystanders around, and fleeting feelings of empathy or distress. But is there also a personality trait that can predict helpfulness?

METHODOLOGY: Baylor University researchers led by Jordan Paul LaBouff conducted three experiments with college students to see if humility leads to helpfulness. In one key trial, after measuring the respondents' arrogance or lack thereof, the scientists played a recording featuring a fellow student who had injured a leg and could not attend class regularly. Each participant was then asked how many hours over the next three weeks they would be willing to meet with the injured student to provide aid.

RESULTS: On average, modest respondents offered to help for nearly three and a half more hours than their egotistical or conceited peers.

CONCLUSION: People with a humble personality are more willing to help others. LeBouff adds that the only other personality trait that has shown any effect on helping behavior in nearly 30 years of research is agreeableness, and that humility is the more powerful predictor of the two.

SOURCE: The full study, "Humble Persons Are More Helpful Than Less Humble Persons: Evidence From Three Studies," is published in The Journal of Positive Psychology.

Image: Alexander Raths/Shutterstock.

Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Health

Just In