Educated People Are More Likely To Help A Stranger, Study Finds

Australian researchers have found that a person's willingness to help a stranger depends on their level of education.

A study has investigated the relationships between various measures of socioeconomic status (SES) and acts of kindness.

It found educational attainment and occupation status had a profound positive effect on helping behaviour.

David Zyngier


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The group of researchers devised a field experiment to investigate what happened when they dropped envelopes across a range of Perth suburbs.

They looked at how many were delivered to the right place, using the number of letters returned as a measure of cooperativeness.

The researchers dropped letters around different suburbs. Image: Supplied

Letters distributed in high-SES neighbourhoods were more likely to be returned than letters distributed in low-SES neighbourhoods.

Study author and social science researcher Dr Cyril Grueter said that while altruism was a universal human trait, little was known about its specific links to someone’s socioeconomic background.

“A person’s willingness to help a stranger depends on their socioeconomic environment,"  Grueter claimed.



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Study author Dr Cyril Greuter from the University of Western Australia. Image: Supplied

Having experienced sustained exposure to norm-abiding models, more educated people may also be better at internalizing cultural norms of helping behaviour, thus creating a more altruistic environment where they reside.

Study co-author Grace Westlake said the results offered a fascinating glimpse into community attitudes.

"(The study) may also prove relevant for policy development and intervention.”

You can read the full study in Evolutionary Human Sciences.