According to the Darwinian definition of fitness, nice people may actually have an evolutionary advantage in that they tend to have more sex than mean people.
Ha! Take that, all you big meanies! OK, we’re sorry…that wasn’t very nice.
So, though it may seem like a ruthless world out there where the nice people finish last, a new study suggests that the nice guy/gal may have an actual advantage over the not-nice guys/gals, at least when it comes to passing on genetics, which, let’s face it, is still what life is all about.
Science had previously demonstrated how altruism is attractive, suggesting that it acts as a “costly signal,” meaning that potential mates see those who have the good fortune to be kind and generous to others as more sexually appealing.
This recent article, published in the British Journal of Psychology, takes it one step further, seeking to make the connection between sex and altruism, not just attraction and altruism. Researchers did this in two ways: first, they polled a group of young Canadian men and women, asking them to outline their altruistic tendencies (how often they helped out strangers, gave money to charity, donated blood, etc.), and then asked them about their sexual habits and history.
Both men and women who said they were more altruistic, claimed to get more sexual interest from the opposite sex. But just men (and not women) actually reported having more sexual partners (casual partners specifically). Furthermore, men and women who measured high on the altruistic scale also reported having a higher frequency of sex over the last month.
Not trusting that these self-proclaimed altruistic people are actually altruistic (and actually having that much sex), researchers devised another way to test their hypothesis. They set up a scenario in which unknowing subjects were given the opportunity to either keep or donate a $100 prize given out for participation in the study. They then asked participants to answer questions about their sexual history, this time also measuring the likelihood that the person wasn’t being completely honest about it, weeding out some of the narcissists.
“The present study provides the first empirical evidence that altruism may tangibly benefit mating in humans living in Western industrialised society,” the study states. “And that sex differences might exist with respect to the utility of altruism for mating, whereby it is a more effective signal for men than for women.”
Researchers admit, however, that the connection is one of correlation and not causation, meaning they’re not sure which trait leads to the other–it may be that more sex causes a person to be more altruistic, and not vice versa.
Either way, it’s a clear win for the good and sexually active people of planet earth. Keep on being kind, you sexy beasts you.