People that want to help others are more likely to reduce their personal welfare to benefit another person from their group rather than a person from another group, new research from the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) has found.
The study, undertaken by WU researcher Susann Fiedler, used eye-tracking technology to record participants’ gaze behaviour while they actively decided whether or not they should share their resources with another person.
Fiedler and her colleagues also found that individuals whose partner is a member of their own group placed a larger weight on others’ outcomes and invested more time and effort in gathering information before reaching a decision.
She notes that people are more concerned about the consequences of their decisions when members of their own group are involved and affected.
The research also revealed a correlation between the desire to help others and the amount of effort people put into decision-making: people with stronger prosocial preferences (those who want to help others) took more time to make decisions. They inspected more information before making those choices.
Reflecting on the study and its findings, Susann Fiedler, author and WU researcher, says: “The findings shed light on how we make decisions that impact others. And specifically, the study delves into the fascinating subject of how the extent to which we care about the resources of others is impacted by certain contexts, such as social groupings.”
“Interestingly, the study also calls into question the long-held assumption that cooperation and generosity are intuitive decisions made fast and without much deliberation, exploring how much effort many invest in information search when making a decision that maximises their own resources, benefits their own team, or supports a rivalling group.”