Nice guys finish first: the competitive altruism hypothesis

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2006 Oct;32(10):1402-13. doi: 10.1177/0146167206291006.


Three experimental studies examined the relationship between altruistic behavior and the emergence of status hierarchies within groups. In each study, group members were confronted with a social dilemma in which they could either benefit themselves or their group. Study 1 revealed that in a reputation environment when contributions were public, people were more altruistic. In both Studies 1 and 2, the most altruistic members gained the highest status in their group and were most frequently preferred as cooperative interaction partners. Study 3 showed that as the costs of altruism increase, the status rewards also increase. These results support the premise at the heart of competitive altruism: Individuals may behave altruistically for reputation reasons because selective benefits (associated with status) accrue to the generous.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Altruism*
  • Competitive Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Desirability*
  • Social Perception