It will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that men act like fools in the face of competition with other men, especially when an attractive woman is involved. That is what a study conducted in the UK seems to indicate. At least in this case the men were competing for a good cause, literally.
The number of people who are allowed to run in the London Marathon each year is limited, and one way to participate is to register with a charity organization and agree to raise money for it. Family, friends and others can then give money to the person, who then gives it to the charity. The researchers examined these donations to participants in the 2014 London Marathon, using the names and any other available information of givers and receivers to identify whether they were male or female. Runners could also post a photo, so researchers also used those to determine whether the runners were female, and also to judge their attractiveness. More details are available here.
A typical large donation was about £100 (Rs9,640) while the average was about half that. The average donation from men, but not from women, went up about £10 (Rs960) following a large donation. If the person receiving the money was an attractive female, the average donations from men went up even more, by about £28 (Rs2,700).
However, men don’t seem to realize they’re doing this. One of the co-authors, Nichola Raihani from University College London, 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.”
According to the researchers, this behaviour could be a subconscious way to support assumptions that generosity is genuinely reflective of other attractive characteristics, such as wealth and a good personality. While the competitive behaviour may have roots in evolutionary biology, the results do not mean that the generosity is not real nor that it is motivated only to impress women. “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,” Raihani said.
The other co-author, Sarah Smith from the University of Bristol, said, “Fundraising pages provide a fascinating real-life laboratory for looking at charity donations. Previously, we saw how donors responded to how much other people had given. Now we see that the response depends – albeit subconsciously – on the fundraiser’s attractiveness.” In what has to be one of the most cynically well-intentioned suggestions to come out of a research paper, she added, “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!”
One group of people who will not be surprised by these findings are movie scriptwriters. Think of the number of films in which the hero won the heart of the heroine after being generous to a child or stray animal. There are also countless movies in which men go to absurd lengths to compete for a woman. Now there is research to validate those plots.
Can you think of other movies validated by this research? Leave a comment below. Please like FamiLife’s page on Facebook so that you get all our articles and others may find us.