Unselﬁsh traits and social decision-making patterns characterize six populations of real-world extraordinary altruists (Shawn Rhoads et al.)
Unselﬁsh traits and social decision-making patterns characterize six populations of real-world extraordinary altruists
Acts of extraordinary, costly altruism, in which significant risks or costs are assumed to benefit strangers, have long represented a motivational puzzle. But the features that consistently distinguish individuals who engage in such acts have not been identified. We assess six groups of real-world extraordinary altruists who had performed costly or risky and normatively rare (<0.00005% per capita) altruistic acts: heroic rescues, non-directed and directed kidney donations, liver donations, marrow or hematopoietic stem cell donations, and humanitarian aid work. Here, we show that the features that best distinguish altruists from controls are traits and decision-making patterns indicating unusually high valuation of others’ outcomes: high Honesty-Humility, reduced Social Discounting, and reduced Personal Distress. Two independent samples of adults who were asked what traits would characterize altruists failed to predict this pattern. These findings suggest that theories regarding self-focused motivations for altruism (e.g., self-enhancing reciprocity, reputation enhancement) alone are insufficient explanations for acts of real-world self-sacrifice.
Rhoads, S.A., Vekaria, K.M., O’Connell, K. et al. Unselfish traits and social decision-making patterns characterize six populations of real-world extraordinary altruists. Nat Commun 14, 1807 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-37283-5