Individuals referring to themselves as humble are more likely than proud individuals to offer time to help someone in need, according to researchers.
In a study published online in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Baylor University researchers said that their findings are surprising because in almost 30 years, few studies have shown any effect of personality variables on helping behavior, according to a statement on Monday.
The decision to help someone in need is influenced by a combination of temporary personal or situational factors like time pressure, number of bystanders, momentary feelings of empathy or a person’s own distress, said Wade Rowatt, study author and associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University.
"While several factors influence whether people will volunteer to help a fellow human in need, it appears that humble people, on average, are more helpful than individuals who are egotistical or conceited," Rowatt said.
Researchers conducted three studies that showed that humility predicted helpfulness.
In one study, participants who reported themselves as humble were also more likely to report that they were helpful, and because people generally understate or exaggerate their humility to create a desired impression, the study used an implicit measure of humility.
In another study students listened to a recording of a fellow student who had injured a leg and could not attend class regularly, and then they were asked how many hours over the next week would they be willing to meet with the injured student to provide aid. Once again, students with more humility were more likely to offer more time to help the injured student.
In the last study researchers examined both implicit and self-reported measures of humility. Students were asked to determine as quickly as possible traits that applied to themselves. Words that associated with humility were humble, modest, tolerant, down to earth, respectful and open-minded. Words associated with pride were arrogant, immodest, egotistical and conceited. Students who reported more humility offered more time to help a student in need, particularly when pressure to help was low.
"Our discovery here is that the understudied trait of humility predicts helpfulness," Rowatt said. "Important next steps will be to figure out whether humility can be cultivated and if humility is beneficial in other contexts, such as scientific and medical advancements or leadership development."