Posted in Miscellany

*Altruism is Contagious

Here in my own hometown, research has been done on group dynamics to show that people who act in the interest of everyone can influence others to do the same and the whole group benefits. Mark Weber, of the University of Toronto, who conducted the research, says:

The prevailing wisdom in many scholarly circles has been that consistent co-operators are suckers, and that others will take advantage of them by getting a free ride on their efforts. But our study found that people who start out acting in their own self-interests, but then see others consistently acting for the good of the group, tend to follow suit and become more co-operative themselves. And, as a result, everyone in the group can come out ahead.

From The Situationist:

Even if just one person in a group is consistently co-operative, he or she can shift the behaviour of the whole group to become the same way, found the study Prof. Weber did in conjunction with J. Keith Murnighan, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. It appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

All it takes is one good person to lead. All it takes is one good act to start the snowball of goodness. That gives me hope!

Full article here.

H/T The Situationist

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Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

7 thoughts on “*Altruism is Contagious

  1. I’ve always lived my life in hopes that this was true – that by living cooperatively and fairly, I could encourage other people to do the same. Thanks for the scientific validation 🙂

  2. This corroborates a suspicion I’ve had for some time that altruism is contagious. But it was only a suspicion until I saw your post.

    I don’t think it’s wise to act altruistically in the expectation that your actions will be contagious, though. Sometimes they might not be.

  3. Note: this requires consistent altruism to be successful.

    I also suspect it only works in intelligent groups (that is it probably doesn’t work in non-intelligent species).

    Cynic note: This might just be propoganda by non-altruistic people to keep us gullible altruitics the suckers we are…

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