Acts of altruism alienate do-gooders?

August 25th, 2010 - 3:59 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 25 (IANS) Their selfless acts should be an inspiration to others, but now it seems people don’t always like do-gooders.
A study by Washington State University psychologists in US shows that acts of altruism only serve to alienate others. Those who volunteer for unwanted tasks or hand out gifts without being asked are resented for “raising the bar” for others or treated with outright suspicion, reports the Telegraph.

Volunteers were put into groups and asked to take part in a series of tasks involving exchanging tokens for meal vouchers. They were also told that giving up vouchers would improve the group’s chances of receiving a cash reward to be shared between them.

Some were told to make deliberately lopsided exchanges — either appearing greedy by hoarding the vouchers or making a show of altruism by not taking their fair share.

At the end, the volunteers were asked about the dynamic in their own group. Not surprisingly, most said they would not want to work with the “greedy” person again.

But a majority also expressed the same sentiment about the apparently unselfish member of their group.

“They frequently said ‘the person is making me look bad’ or is breaking the rules,” said Craig Parks, a social psychologist who led the study.

“Occasionally, they would suspect the person had ulterior motives. The do-gooders are also seen as deviant rule breakers. It’s as if they’re giving away Monopoly money so someone can stay in the game, irking other players no end.”

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