Good people should be bad!

Nobody likes a do-gooder: Study confirms selfless behaviour is ‘alienating’

By Daily Mail Reporter

Do-gooders can be resented because the 'raise the bar' for what is  expected of everyone, psychologists believe (file picture)Do-gooders can be resented because the ‘raise the bar’ for what is expected of everyone, psychologists believe

They probably think their selfless behaviour makes them popular but the truth about ‘do-gooders’ is nobody really likes them, according to new research.

A series of studies found that those who volunteer to take on unwanted tasks or who hand out gifts without being prompted, quickly alienate themselves.

Psychologists believe this is because it makes the rest of us feel guilty and puts pressure on us to behave in an equally selfless fashion.

Researchers say do-gooders come to be resented because they ‘raise the bar’ for what is expected of everyone.

It suggests that people might want to think twice before waxing lyrical about their charity work or volunteering to put in extra hours at the office.

Social psychologist Professor Craig Parks said: ‘The fear is that this new standard will make everyone else look bad.

‘It doesn’t matter that the overall welfare of the group is better served by someone’s unselfish behaviour.

‘What is objectively good, we see as subjectively bad.

‘The do-gooders are also seen as deviant rule breakers. It’s as if they’re giving away Monopoly money so someone can stay in the game, irking other players no end.’

Professor Parks, of Washington State University, carried out a series of four tests with groups of people which showed that do-gooders got people’s backs up.

In each case others reacted by wanting them thrown out of the group.

Prof Parks added: ‘It’s perhaps not hard to think of examples of this but we were the first to show this happens and have explanations for why.’

Parks led the research entitled ‘The Desire to Expel Unselfish Members from the Group.’

During the research, participants were handed an allocation of points they could keep or give up for an immediate reward of meal service vouchers.

They were also told that giving up points would improve the group’s chance of receiving a monetary reward to be shared between them.

Generally those within the group would make seemingly fair swaps of one point for each voucher.

However, in each group one was briefed to make lopsided exchanges – greedily giving up no points and taking a lot of vouchers or unselfishly giving up a lot of points and taking few vouchers.

As expected, most participants later said they would not want to work with the greedy colleague again.

But a majority of participants also said they would not want to work with the unselfish colleague again.

Prof Parks added: ‘They frequently said ‘the person is making me look bad’ or is breaking the rules.

‘Occasionally, they would suspect the person had ulterior motives.’  Further research is planned to look at how do-gooders themselves react to being rejected.

While some may indeed have ulterior motives, Prof Parks said it’s more likely they actually are working for the good of the wider group.

He speculated that, once excluded from the group, they may simply give up.

‘But it’s also possible,’ he added, ‘that they may actually try even harder.’

The research is published in the current Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
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