Current Psychology

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 982–990 | Cite as

Perceived attractiveness of two types of altruist

  • Ian NormanEmail author
  • Piers Fleming


Empirical evidence has demonstrated that in long-term romantic contexts altruists are favoured over non-altruists. Costly signalling theory suggests that altruism informs observers that cooperating with the altruist is beneficial. This paper distinguishes between types of altruism to investigate if there is a differential effect on desirability across types. Using dating advertisements, participants (observers) received information about a considerate altruist, heroic altruist or neutral character and then rated their attraction to the character in a range of romantic and non-romantic contexts. It was hypothesised that both considerate and heroic characters would be rated by observers as more desirable than the neutral advert in long-term romantic contexts and that there would be a difference in desirability scores between the considerate and heroic characters. The results of study 1 showed that considerate altruists were significantly more desirable than the neutral advert in long-term romantic contexts, but heroic altruists did not differ significantly from neutral or considerate characters. Study 2 confirmed the same pattern of results. These findings suggest that considerate altruism signals good character traits to observers, such as kindness, which could indicate parenting ability and characters who signal these traits will have increased reproductive success because they are more desirable and therefore have access to more/better quality reproductive mates. Furthermore, the results suggest that considerate and heroic altruism may be distinct, and that considerate altruism is the more desirable type of altruism.


Costly Signalling Altruism Attraction Heroism Considerate 



This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors, nor are there any declarations of interest to be made.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

12144_2019_266_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 15 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of East AngliaNorfolkEngland

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