Tag Archives: generosity

Self-Perceived Attractiveness Shapes Views of Social Hierarchies

Nielsen Product SpendingCosmetic surgery is the fastest-growing medical expenditure in the U.S, and Americans spend more on personal grooming than on reading material.

Even during the recession of 2008, Americans spent at least $200 billion on products and services to enhance their appearances, according to Stanford’s Margaret Neale and Peter Belmi, now of University of Virginia.

Margaret Neale

Margaret Neale

Personal appearance and attractiveness have been linked with likeability, perceived competence, income and more, and Neale and Belmi found further connections between people’s self-perceived attractiveness and their attitudes toward social inequality and hierarchies.

Attractiveness Bias2The team asked participants to write about a time when they felt more attractive or less attractive, and then indicate whether they agreed with statements such as, “Some groups of people are simply inferior to other groups,” and “Lower wages for women and ethnic minorities simply reflect lower skill and education level.”

The researchers found that people who think they are attractive also think they have greater social standing, and believe that people are entitled to their social position based on their personal (“dispositional”) qualities.

Occupy 99As a result, people who rate themselves as attractive generally feel that people in lower social strata are there due to their characteristics or behaviors.
These beliefs are associated with less willingness to donate money to a social equality non-profit organization (the Occupy movement).

Peter Belmi

Peter Belmi

By contrast, people who thought they were less attractive also thought they belonged to a lower-status social group, and rejected existing social hierarchies.
They attributed unequal social status to external factors often beyond the full control of those in less prestigious social groups. One example is lack of access to quality education.

Unlike self-perceptions of attractiveness, empathy and integrity were not related to people’s views of their social class and others’ place in society.

-*How have you seen appearance affect acceptance or organizational hierarchy and philanthropic giving?

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Power Increases Responsibility, Generosity toward Future Generations

Leigh Plunkett Tost

Leigh Plunkett Tost

Power can increase future perspective, feelings of social responsibility, and intergenerational generosity toward others, according to University of Michigan’s Leigh Plunkett Tost, Kimberly A. Wade-Benzoni of Duke University, and University of Idaho’s Hana Huang Johnson.

Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg

Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg and Pricilla Chan’s sizeable gift of Facebook stock on the occasion of their daughter’s birth is a recent example.

Katherine DeCelles

Katherine DeCelles

This finding contrasts previous reports that power tends to cause people to act in more self-interested ways with peers, particularly “in the presence of a weak moral identity,” according to University of Toronto’s Katherine DeCelles, D. Scott DeRue of University of Michigan, Harvard’s Joshua Margolis, and Tara L. Ceranic of University of San Diego.

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

Focusing on previous power experiences also was linked with a longer-term time perspective among more than 110 participants who wrote about a time they experienced power over others.
Volunteers in studies by Tost’s group reported greater willingness to allocate charitable donations to a cause with long-term benefits than one addressing an immediate need, compared with a matched group that didn’t write about a previous power experience.

Hana Huang Johnson

Hana Huang Johnson

In another task, more than 230 volunteers also wrote a power prime, then chose between allocating a $1,000 bonus to themselves or another participant now or a larger amount in the future.
Participants who recalled a power experience were more likely to allocate a greater future bonus to themselves and someone else.

Scott DeRue

Scott DeRue

Tost’s team suggested that people with intergenerational power typically feel responsible for ensuring others’ long-term interests, manifested in generous behavior to younger generations.
DeCelles’ findings suggest that moral identity may interact with intergenerational relations to influence people to act with less self-interest and greater altruism.

Joshua Margolis

Joshua Margolis

In additional studies, more than 160 participants were randomly assigned to influence tasks that other group members performed.
The controlling participants reported greater willingness to allocate more future lottery winnings to another group member compare with volunteers who did not control others’ assignments.

Sonya Lyubomirsky

Sonya Lyubomirsky

Many of these paradoxes of generosity and altruism are investigated through University of Notre Dame’s Science of Generosity initiative.
One promising project is led by University of California, Riverside’s Sonya Lyubomirsky, who explored “the how” and “myths” of happiness.

She currently investigates “ripple” and contagion effects of generosity propagation in work settings, and argues that performing generous acts makes the giver, receiver, connector, and observer happier.
In addition, she posits that workplace generosity promotes a positive workplace climate.

Tara Ceranic

Tara Ceranic

Feelings of power seem to invoke a sense of responsibility to ensure and enable others’ interests.
This insight can benefit non-profit organizations seeking increased donations by highlighting that those with decision-making authority have the power to shape the performance and outcomes of the generations to come.

-*To what extent do those with organizational power demonstrate a longer time perspective and willingness to enable the next generation’s well-being?

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Previous blog posts have outlined the varied positive effects of focusing on previous power experiences, and on time perspective’s relationship with investment choices.

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Executives with Daughters and Sisters: More Generous?

Michael Dahl

Michael Dahl

Cristian Dezső

Cristian Dezső

Male CEOs paid employees more after the birth of their first child when it is a daughter, but paid employees an average of $100 less annually after the birth of a son, according to Michael Dahl of Aalborg University with University of Maryland’s Cristian Dezső and David Gaddis Ross of Columbia Business School in their study of more than 10,000 Danish companies between 1996 and 2006.

David Gaddis Ross

David Gaddis Ross

Female employees typically received higher wages after the birth the CEO’s first child of either gender, and were less adversely-affected than their male colleagues by wage decreases after the birth of CEOs’ children.

Paul Van Lange

Paul Van Lange

People with more sisters tended to show more generous “pro-social” behaviors in laboratory studies of 600 volunteers who played a simulation game requiring decisions about resource-sharing with strangers, according to Paul Van Lange of Free University in Amsterdam with colleagues Ellen De Bruin, Wilma Otten, and Jeffrey Joireman of Washington State University.

Jeffrey Joireman

Jeffrey Joireman

Alice Eagly at Northwestern University suggests that men with sisters are significantly more likely to help others, based on her meta-analysis of 172 research studies.

Alice Eagly

Alice Eagly

In addition, she noted that men tend to help women more than other men.

Men behaved more generously when the cost was minimal in a modified dictator game, according to James Andreoni at the University of California, San Diego and Lise Vesterlund at the University of Pittsburgh.

James Andreoni

James Andreoni

In contrast, they noticed that women demonstrated greater generosity when the cost was high.

Lise Vesterlund

Lise Vesterlund

Andreoni and Vesterlund suggest that men are more responsive to price changes when mens “demand curves for altruism” cross those of women.
As a result, in this lab simulation, men behaved either extremely generously or selfishly, but women shared gains more equally.

Women’s direct presence on corporate boards – rather than their influence as sisters or daughts –  was correlated with increased economic value, according to Dezső  and Ross’s evaluation of the S&P 1,500 firms’ financial performance between 1992 and 2006.
Boards that included women generated an average of 1 percent more economic value – more than $40 million each – when the firm’s strategy is focused on innovation.

-*What corporate impact have you seen of male executives with daughters and sisters?

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Oxytocin Increases Empathic Work Relationships, Workplace Trust, Generosity

Paul Zak

Paul Zak

Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont Graduate Center, and author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity, suggests that the hormone oxytocin empathic understanding, generosity (donating to charities, giving money to others in experimental situations), happiness, and trust/trustworthiness.The Moral Molecule

He verified these laboratory-based findings in real-world situations, like a wedding he attended in southern England, prior to which he drew blood samples from the wedding party.

Zak says that oxytocin can be increased by massage, dance, story-telling, prayer, engaging in social media with a loved one, and hugs.
As a result, he “prescribes 8 hugs a day” for better mood and improved “relationships of all types.”

He says that oxytocin can be inhibited by improper nurturing in childhood, stress, abuse, and by oxytocin’s antagonist, testosterone.
Known as the “selfish hormone,” testosterone is also correlated with expressions of power and leadership in the workplace.

One reason women may have challenges expressing these traits in work situations is that their average testosterone levels are ten times lower than men’s.
Zak’s TED Talk

Amy Cuddy

Amy Cuddy

Related Post:

Thoughts change bodies, bodies change minds, roles shapes hormones: Amy Cuddy on “Faking Until It’s Real”

-*To what extent have you seen “eight hugs a day improve mood and relationships”?

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Cooperative Instinct, Reflective Self-Interest

David Rand

Harvard scientists, led by postdoctoral researcher David Rand found that volunteers who were asked to contribute to the greater good at their own expense at first tended toward generous and cooperative behavior, but upon reflection, they chose self-interest.
Evolutionary biologist Martin Nowak and psychology professor Joshua Greene collaborated with Rand in the study published in Nature .

Martin Nowak

Rand, Nowak, and Greene gave money to volunteers for use in games where they could earn more, depending on choices about cooperating with others.

The team found that people acted most generously when they made immediate decisions about how much to contribute, or were asked to report a time when their intuitions and emotions guided them to a good decision.

When volunteers took more time to consider decisions, or were asked to remember a time they benefitted because rational thinking or when an emotional response led them to an adverse decision, they contributed less to the common pool of money.

Joshua Greene

In one situation, four participants were given 40 cents each and told that they could contribute as much money as desired to the common pool, which would be doubled and then divided equally among the four people.

People decided most quickly on their contribution strategy were more willing to contribute than those who considered the choice for more than 10 seconds.

When researchers forced some volunteers to decide a strategy rapidly and others to wait at least 10 seconds before deciding, they again observed that those who decided most quickly contributed most.

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel laureate and author of the book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, which examines the two cognitive systems and the role they play in decision-making.

The researchers suggest that people’s intuitive responses are associated with what they have learned to benefit them, through experiences in various situations.

They asked participants if their everyday interactions with others were typically cooperative or uncooperative.
Those who reported having mainly cooperative interactions made quick decisions to contribute more and gave less when they had more time to ponder the scenario.
In contrast, those who reported uncooperative interactions in daily life gave the same amount when they made fast vs more deliberate decisions.

These studies could suggest policies or incentives to encourage desired behavior.
One complication that researchers consider is that a monetary reward or a fine is introduced, people may begin to ignore their first response and weigh the costs and benefits.
This delay can lead to people acting more in self-interest, and less for the common good.

An example of this paradox is seen in a study of Israeli day care programs.
Monetary fines were levied when parents picked up their children late, and the number of parents who arrived late increased rather than decreased.

This finding is consistent with punishment’s lower efficacy in motivating behavior.

-*In which work situations do you favor cooperation with colleagues?
-*When do you find that “enlightened self-interest” is the more prudent approach at work?

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