Are You The Kind Of Person Who Helps Others? What A New Personality Study Says

If you were given the chance to get people to safety in a life-or-death situation, would you? A new study published this month in Scientific Reports suggests the key to that answer may at least partially depend on your personality.

German researchers recruited 104 volunteers to take part in a computer game they had created. After being given a small amount of money (14 euros), the participants were told that they needed to get onto a train within a minute’s time, with success granting them more euros. Along the way, they’d meet fellow travelers who needed help finding their own train. The longer they’d take helping these people, though, the less likely they’d catch the train. A second scenario placed them in the middle of a disaster zone, with a train crash causing parts of the station to start crumbling down. This time, they only had 15 seconds to escape, but once again they would encounter people who needed help.

Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers found people generally took the same amount of risk to help people in either case — helping just before the point where there would be too little time to catch the train or escape. Volunteers did end up helping out less people during the emergency situation, but largely because they had less time to process their decisions. There were nuanced differences on the individual level, however.

People who considered themselves to be cooperative, or prosocial, became much more willing to help during an emergency, while individualistic people became much more stingy with their time. Specifically, 44 percent of the prosocial volunteers became more cooperative during the escape scenario compared to the humdrum scenario, while 52 percent of the individualistic volunteers became less cooperative the second time around.

Firefighting Would you jump into the fiery fray? The answer may depend on your personality, suggests new research. Pixabay, Public Domain

“Emergencies therefore seem to amplify people’s natural cooperation tendency,” concluded the authors. “This interpretation of our results is generally consistent with the picture emerging from recent research on human cooperation.”

The researchers, members of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Bain, Germany, hope to use their “help-or-escape social dilemma” to further test out how people react in widescale life-or-death situations. In other words, your basic superhero movie climax.

“Our game-based approach offers a new way of studying human cooperation and could help authorities to manage crowd behaviors during mass emergencies,” said lead author Dr. Mehdi Moussaïd in a statement.

Source: Moussaïd M, Trauernicht M. Patterns Of Cooperation During Collective Emergencies In The Help-Or-Escape Social Dilemma. Scientific Reports. 2016.

Loading...
Join the Discussion