Highly intelligent people are more likely to be generous and altruistic, psychological research finds.
Altruistic people are unselfish and sometimes deny themselves so that others can have more.
Intelligent people may be more generous partly because they can afford it.
People with higher IQs generally have greater resources, or can expect to recover what they have given later on.
Generosity is not something people usually associate with intelligence — but this study clearly shows a link.
The study’s authors write:
“In the first study, we found that those who contributed more than their fair share to a public good were more intelligent, as measured by two relatively independent measures of general intelligence.
In the second study, we showed that those who possess a dispositional tendency to value joint benefits more than
their own, scored higher on an intelligence test.”
For the study, 301 people played games that involved either donating to others or keeping things for themselves.
The results revealed that intelligent people were more generous to others.
People who were more egotistical — keeping more for themselves — tended to be less intelligent.
People with higher IQs were more concerned with the public good.
The authors write:
“The evidence presented supports the possibility that unconditional altruism may serve as a costly signal of general intelligence because altruism is costly and is reliably linked to the quality ‘general intelligence’.
Consistent with the finding that children’s intelligence
predicts later socio-economic success better than parents’ attributes, we assume that intelligence is an indicator of future resources.
As a consequence, someone with high cognitive skills may be able to donate more in advance than someone with lower skills.”
In other words, intelligent people can afford to be more generous because they have more to give.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Research in Personality (Millet & Dewitte, 2007).