Humble people help more

By Shayna Brouker • Published: March 26th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You’re late on your way to work, battling rush hour and a severe lack of sleep. Stopped at a red light, you look to your right and see an elderly woman standing at the corner with that dazed and confused expression on her face. She’s clearly lost or disoriented. But do you actually stop and see whether she needs help?

If you’ve got your ego in check, you’re more likely to pull over and help grandma find her way home. New research from the University of Maine shows that humility and the willingness to help others go hand-in-hand. The study, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, found that humility seems to have a stronger effect on helping others than even friendliness.

Past research has shown that social pressure, like donating money to charity to impress someone superior, can also have a major influence on whether we help. But this is the first research to show that humble people help out no matter what, because it’s just who they are. The researchers defined humility based on college students’ answers to questions like, “Some say I have a big ego” or “I am no better than anyone else.” They also had the students attribute words describing humility and conceit to themselves or others.

Humility is gaining grip as a desired personality trait. Other studies have found that it’s a key trait in leaders. It’s also been linked with higher job performance and better predicted how someone would do on the job than other personality traits, like friendliness and conscientiousness.

What’s on the horizon for humility research? Social scientists hope to determine whether humility can be developed and if it can benefit other areas like scientific and medical innovation.

But for a simple start, just stop next time you see someone in need … and have a humbling experience yourself.