STOCKHOLM — Being unselfish comes with benefits likely appealing to a selfish person. According to a study by a trio of researchers in Stockholm and South Carolina, people who tend to put others’ needs ahead of their own typically see greater incomes and have more children, when compared with people more focused on themselves.

“The result is clear in both the American and the European data. The most unselfish people have the most children and the moderately unselfish receive the highest salaries,” says study author Kimmo Eriksson, a researcher at the Centre for Cultural Evolution at Stockton University, in a release. “And we also find this result over time – the people who are most generous at one point in time have the largest salary increases when researchers revisit them later in time,”

The result of this recent research flies in the face of previous studies that suggest selfish people usually made more money because of their self-serving ways.

Eriksson, collaborating with researchers from the Institute for Futures Studies and the University of South Carolina, drew their conclusions from an analysis of four large studies assessing the attitudes and personal lives of Americans and Europeans. They then conducted their own survey to determine whether their findings held water.

“In a separate study, we examined the expectations of ordinary people to see if their expectations aligned with our data. The results of this study showed that people generally have the correct expectation that selfish people have fewer children, but erroneously believe that selfish people will make more money. It is nice to see that generosity so often pays off in the long run,” says co-author Pontus Strimling, a researcher at the Institute for Futures Studies.

This mistaken belief is the reason that they say self-centered people don’t change their ways — they simply believe being selfish is a more lucrative disposition, even if they’re struggling. The authors posited that improved social relationships could be the key for better salaries among unselfish people, but their study couldn’t confirm that.

The full study was published September 27, 2018 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

About Ben Renner

Writer, editor, curator, and social media manager based in Denver, Colorado. View my writing at

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