Selfless people have more sex, Guelph researcher learns

New research from the University of Guelph and Nipissing University suggests selfless people have more sex than less altruistic people.
Study finds selfless people have more sex.

New research from the University of Guelph and Nipissing University suggests selfless people have more sex than less altruistic people.

Steven Arnocky, lead researcher of the project, conducted two studies at Nipissing University to discover how altruism affects a person's desirability.

"We were a little surprised about the consistency of the results," he said.

The first study was a self-report study, with participants ranging in age from 18 to 33, with an average age of 21

The study required participants to report their altruistic behaviours, such as how often they donate money to charity, or help strangers to push their car out of the snow.

"Altruistic individuals reported more lifetime sex partners, more casual sex partners, even more sex within their romantic relationships," Arnocky said.

But Arnocky said he didn't want to rely solely on the self-report study, in case the people surveyed weren't really as selfless as they considered themselves to be.

Two studies, one result

So for the second study, the researchers conducted a behavioural test of altruism. The participants were between 18 and 47-years-old, and the average age was 20.

Participants were told their name would be put in a $100 prize draw for their participation in the study. At the end of the survey, the participants were given a chance to keep the money, or to donate all or a portion of the money to a registered charity.  

"Again, those individuals who were actually willing to donate had reported more sexual behaviour, more casual sex partners, and for men, more lifetime partners," Arnocky said.

He said it was interesting to see that the results of the first study held, even when the researchers controlled for personality, narcissism, and socially desirability.

Why do altruistic people have more sex?

Pat Barclay, psychology professor at the University of Guelph, helped design the second study.

"There's very good theoretical reasons as to why we might predict people will want a generous partner, as opposed to someone who's kind of stingy, and maybe kind of a jerk," Barclay said.

"So there's good reason for that, even though it contradicts, you know, the popular wisdom that nice guys finish last," he said.

While the studies, which were published in the British Journal of Psychology last month, produced interesting results, Barclay and Arnocky agreed there was one thing the study could not prove.

"One issue with our findings is, of course, that these aren't causal findings," Arnocky said. "We can't say that altruism causes you to have more sexual activity."

That being said, it might not hurt to be a little more giving.

"It's always good advice to behave altruistically, it can only benefit you," Arnocky said.


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