Selfishness is attributed to men who help young women: Signaling function of male altruism

  • Yuta Kawamura Kyoto University
  • Takashi Kusumi Kyoto University
Keywords: altruism, mate choice, sexual selection, generosity


To investigate the function of altruism as a mating signal especially among males, the present study examined whether the motivation of a man who behaves altruistically toward a woman is more likely to be perceived as selfish by a third party. In two studies, participants read vignettes about one person helping a stranger, after which they rated the helpers’ perceived selfish motivation. We manipulated the sex of the recipient and helper (Study 1) and the recipient’s age (young vs. old; Study 2). In both studies, a man who helped a young woman was regarded as having a more selfish motivation than was an individual who helped the same sex. Conversely, although a woman who helped a man was viewed as more selfish than was a woman who helped another woman, the effect was smaller than when the helper was male (Study 1). Furthermore, a man who helped an old woman was not regarded as more selfish than was a man who helped another man (Study 2). These results support the notion that male altruism works as a courtship display.
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