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Agreeable people are more likely to help you in crisis

sex and relationships Updated: Jul 11, 2016 11:40 IST
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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 run away from the victim, say researchers.(Shutterstock)

Prosocial behaviours, such as altruism and empathy, come more naturally to the people who are agreeable, a new study has found.

According to the research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSPB), agreeableness is one of the better predictors of prosocial behaviour.

The studies focused on one aspect of prosocial behaviors that can vary widely including volunteering, co-operation within groups, and participating in community actions.

Read: From apathy to empathy in just three simple steps

The motivations behind a person’s prosocial behaviour, whether helping a stranger passed out on the street or volunteering time for someone who has recently lost their parents, are extremely complex, suggested the study.

“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 run away from the victim,” said Meara Habashi from University of Iowa.

According to the research, one major path linking personality to help runs through empathy.

Not-so-agreeable people are not necessarily less empathetic than others, they simply may need more reminders to show empathy, finds a new study. (Shutterstock)

By experimentally manipulating empathy, the researchers showed that agreeableness is a dimension of personality, most closely associated with emotional reactions towards victims in need of help and people’s willingness to help.

In the first set of experiments, the researchers applied two different vignettes for their studies. In one, college students listened to a radio story about another college student who recently lost her parents and was now taking care of her siblings.

In the second, researchers asked 233 participants, over half of whom were women, to imagine going to a friend’s speech and while running late to the talk they encounter someone slumped on the ground and not moving.

Read: A root cause of intolerance is a lack of empathy

To manipulate empathy, the follow-up studies focused on how people responded when they took or ignored the perspective of the victim in the case of the college student who lost her parents.

Of 233 college students, the researchers found correlations with empathy in those having high agreeableness or neuroticism.

However, only those high in agreeableness would volunteer their time for the victim, the study revealed.

Based on these results, people who are low in agreeableness are not necessarily less empathetic than others, they simply may need more reminders when it comes to generating empathic concern, suggested the study.

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