New study from the University of Guelph and Nipissing University shows that people who help others are more desirable to the opposite sex, have more sexual partners and more frequent sex.
“This research is the first to show that altruism may translate into real mating success in Western populations, that altruists have more mates than non-altruists,” said Pat Barclay, a U of G psychology professor who worked on the study with lead author Prof. Steven Arnocky from Nipissing.
Arnocky added: “It appears that altruism evolved in our species, in part, because it serves as a signal of other underlying desirable qualities, which helps individuals reproduce.”
The scientists interviewed about 800 people regarding their relationships and propensity for helping others, including giving to charity, donating blood, helping strangers cross the street, donating winnings and helping classmates, among other things.
Even after controlling for age and personality, altruists were found to have greater success at dating and sex.
However, “it’s a more effective signal for men than for women,” Barclay said. The study found that while altruism is a desirable quality among both genders, it affects men’s lifetime dating and sex partners more than women’s.
The findings support previous studies on food sharing by hunters, which found that men who hunt and share meat enjoy greater reproductive success. Earlier research by Barclay has also found that– all else equal –both men and women are more attracted to people who are altruistic.
The scientists suggest expanding the study to include a wider array of variables such as relationship length and partner quality.
“Also, given the importance we place on attractiveness, resources and intelligence, it would be worthwhile to explore how individuals ‘trade-off’ altruism against other desirable qualities,” Arnocky said.
The research was published recently in the British Journal of Psychology.