Title

Sex Differences in Violent versus Non-Violent Life-Threatening Altruism

Document Type

Article

Subject Area(s)

psychology, social sciences

Abstract

Many studies on Hamilton's (1964) inclusive fitness theory have used the burning house and kidney donation examples of life-threatening altruism. However, these examples may not be sufficiently exhibiting the risk involved with life-threatening altruism that would have occurred in hunter-gatherer societies, such as fighting off attackers and/or predators. The present study examined participants' estimated likelihood to perform altruistic acts for specific kin members/friends in two violent life-threatening situations (i.e., being mugged and being chased) and two non-violent life-threatening situations (i.e., the burning house and kidney donation examples). Participants were 216 undergraduate students who completed a questionnaire on altruism toward an actual kin member/friend. Each questionnaire contained four life-or-death scenarios (two violent and two non-violent) in which either the participant's sibling, cousin, or best friend was in danger and needed help. Results indicated that people were more likely to help siblings than cousins and friends in both the violent and non-violent hypothetical scenarios. Participants indicated a greater likelihood to help people in violent situations than in non-violent situations. Women indicated a greater estimated likelihood than men to help people in non-violent situations while men indicated a greater estimated likelihood than women to help people in violent situations. Both male and female participants indicated a greater estimated likelihood to help women than men in violent situations.

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