Title

Educational attainment is associated with unconditional helping behavior

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Evolutionary Human Sciences

Publisher

Evolutionary Human Sciences

School

School of Medical and Health Sciences

RAS ID

30138

Comments

Westlake, G., Coall, D., & Grueter, C. C. (2019). Educational attainment is associated with unconditional helping behaviour. Evolutionary Human Sciences, 1, Article e15. https://doi.org/10.1017/ehs.2019.16

Abstract

Altruism is a universal human trait, but little is known about its within-population variation. Socio-economic status (SES) has been found to positively impact altruism, but the specific socio-economic variables behind this relationship have remained elusive. This study aimed to determine which facets of SES predict altruism using a lost letter paradigm and a novel lost letter method. Six hundred letters (half dropped on the pavement, half sent to residential addresses) were distributed in 20 suburbs of Perth (Australia) differing in socio-economic variables. Letters distributed in high-SES neighbourhoods were more likely to be returned than letters distributed in low-SES neighbourhoods. Educational attainment and occupation status were the specific socio-economic variables underlying this association, while economic resources and crime rate were not associated with the likelihood of a letter being returned. These results suggest that altruism blossoms in neighbourhoods that are populated with highly educated individuals working in high-status jobs. The relationship between education and prosocial inclinations may be mediated by cognitive ability, self-control and high levels of socialization. Having experienced sustained exposure to norm-abiding models, more educated people may also be better at internalizing cultural norms of helping behaviour, thus creating a more altruistic environment where they reside.

DOI

10.1017/ehs.2019.16

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