When it comes to prosocial behaviours, it turns out agreeable personalities are more likely to help strangers.
Linking willingness to help others to specific personalities, a new study found that agreeableness is one of the better predictors of prosocial behaviour.
“It is common for persons to experience distress on seeing a victim in need of help. That distress can lead some people to escape, and to run away from the victim,” said lead author Meara Habashi of the University of Iowa, adding “But distress does not need to block helping because it may be one first-appearing aspect of empathy. Distress can actually contribute to helping, but the way it contributes depends on personality.”
One major path linking personality to helping runs through empathy.
By experimentally manipulating empathy, Habashi and colleagues William Graziano (Purdue University) and Ann Hoover (University of South Carolina Upstate) showed that agreeableness is the dimension of personality most closely associated with emotional reactions to victims in need of help and people’s willingness to help.
As with most scientific research, this is a step toward understanding a complex set of behaviors and decision making.
Based on these results, people, who are low in agreeableness are not necessarily less empathetic than others, simply may need more reminders when it comes to generating empathic concern.
“Personality matters,” stated Habashi, adding “It matters in how we structure our request for help, and it matters in how we respond to that request.”
“Helping is a result of several different processes running in sequence,” noted Habashi. “Each process contributes something different. The way we ask for help -perspective taking–can influence our chances for getting it.”
The study is published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.