Being agreeable is linked to high levels of empathy, research finds.
Agreeableness is one of the five major aspects of personality, along with conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness to experience and extraversion.
Agreeable people tend to be tactful, trusting, friendly and warm.
They are generally mindful of other people’s feelings, which also makes them more compliant.
People who are agreeable are more likely to be helpful to others, because of their propensity for empathy.
The conclusions come from a series of studies in which people read scenarios describing a person getting into difficulties.
Subsequently, they rated how much empathy they felt and whether they would offer assistance.
The results showed that the more agreeable people are, they more they felt empathy for the victim of the story.
Agreeable people were more likely to offer their assistance.
Along with agreeable people, those who were more neurotic were more likely to empathise.
Dr Meara Habashi, the study’s first author, said:
“It is common for persons to experience distress on seeing a victim in need of help.
That distress can lead some people to escape, and to run away from the victim.
But distress does not need to block helping because it may be one first-appearing aspect of empathy.
Distress can actually contribute to helping, but the way it contributes depends on personality.”
Less agreeable people seem to need more reminders that they should help out, said Dr Habashi:
It matters in how we structure our request for help, and it matters in how we respond to that request.
Helping is a result of several different processes running in sequence.
Each process contributes something different.
The way we ask for help -perspective taking — can influence our chances for getting it.”
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 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Habashi et al., 2016).