Perceived attractiveness of two types of altruist

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Empirical evidence has demonstrated that in long-term romantic contexts altruists are favoured over non-altruists. Costly signalling theory suggests that altruism informs observers that cooperating with the altruist is beneficial. This paper distinguishes between types of altruism to investigate if there is a differential effect on desirability across types. Using dating advertisements, participants (observers) received information about a considerate altruist, heroic altruist or neutral character and then rated their attraction to the character in a range of romantic and non-romantic contexts. It was hypothesised that both considerate and heroic characters would be rated by observers as more desirable than the neutral advert in long-term romantic contexts and that there would be a difference in desirability scores between the considerate and heroic characters. The results of study 1 showed that considerate altruists were significantly more desirable than the neutral advert in long-term romantic contexts, but heroic altruists did not differ significantly from neutral or considerate characters. Study 2 did not find the same pattern of results across the whole sample – but younger participants did demonstrate the same preference for considerate altruists over a neutral character in long-term romantic contexts. The findings are discussed in the context of the sex difference in mate preferences where females more than males desire qualities that signal resource acquisition. Overall, these findings suggest that considerate altruism signals good character traits to observers, such as kindness, which could indicate parenting ability and characters who signal these traits will have increased reproductive success because they are more desirable and therefore have access to more/better quality reproductive mates. Furthermore, the results suggest that considerate and heroic altruism may be distinct, and that considerate altruism is the more desirable type of altruism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)982–990
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date24 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • Costly Signalling
  • Considerate
  • Heroism
  • Attraction
  • Altruism

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