And Finally…Men dig deep for charity…but more for a pretty face
New research by academics has revealed that men compete to outdo each other with the size of their charity donations when the recipient is a pretty woman.
Scientists at University College London and the University of Bristol say the tendency is the result of a subconscious competitive streak rooted in male evolution.
A study of online donation websites from 2,561 fundraising pages for last year’s London Marathon analysed how large donations affected subsequent gifts.
But when the fundraiser was an attractive woman, a large donation increased other men’s gifts by an average £38 ($56) - nearly four times as much as the impact on other women.
The scientists say this competitiveness is unlikely to be the result of a conscious decision - and is probably the result of an ancient evolutionary function.
Their generous actions, with no immediate gain, are the subconscious desire to signal hidden qualities, such as wealth or kindness, to potential partners.
Writing in the journal Current Biology, the scientists said: “These results support a key prediction of competitive helping theory by showing that male donors compete directly with other males in the presence of an attractive, opposite-sex audience, although we find no evidence for this in females.”
Researcher Dr Nichola Raihani from UCL, said: “We looked at why people behave generously in real-world situations, even when there is no obvious benefit to them in doing so.
“We found a remarkably strong response with men competing to advertise generosity to attractive women, but didn’t see women reacting in a similar way, showing competitive helping is more a male than female trait.”
The study showed that people on average gave £9.61 ($14.33) more after seeing others’ large donations.
When the large donations are made by men to attractive female fundraisers, subsequent donations from other men increased by £37.96 ($56.57).
The researchers categorised a large donation as at least £50 ($75), and double previous average donations.
They asked independent reviewers to rate the attractiveness of the fundraiser’s picture on the website.
For both men and women, fundraisers who were smiling were perceived to be more attractive than those who were not, consistently receiving more donations.
Professor Sarah Smith from the University of Bristol, who co-wrote the paper, said: “Fundraising pages provide a fascinating real-life laboratory for looking at charity donations.
“On a practical level, there are implications for how fundraisers can raise more money for charities. To London marathon fundraisers, I would say get your generous friends to donate early and make sure you put a good picture up, preferably one in which you are smiling!”
Dr Raihani added: “It’s fascinating that evolutionary biology can offer insights into human behaviour even in the modern world.
“People are really generous and their reasons for giving to charity are generally not self-serving but it doesn’t preclude their motives from having evolved to benefit them in some way.
“Take eating for example, our primary drive is to dispel the feeling of hunger, which is pleasurable, but the evolutionary purpose is to make sure we don’t starve and die.
“Generous behaviours can be seen in a similar way - the motivation for performing them doesn’t have to be the same as the evolutionary function.”