A Helping Hand
One study played a radio story about a student with a broken leg who could not attend classes. The participants were asked how much time they would offer to spend with the injured student during the next week to assist them in studies and household activities. The participants who rated themselves as humble offered more time providing aid than less humble persons. Another study asked students a list of words which could be used to describe themselves. Students who rated themselves as humble in the first part used words such as modest, tolerant and down to earth. The less humble students keyed in on words such as conceited, immodest and arrogant. The use of key words and self-evaluations provided the implicit measurements of humility used in the study regarding the injured student. Regarding the reliability of the screening process, Dr. LaBouff stated,
Defining humility is one of the most difficult aspects of its research. Humility is conceptually similar to shyness or modesty, certainly. Modesty, however, is an outward expression (e.g., modest dress or speech) whereas humility is more of an inner quality. We were careful in this study to use measures that didn’t simultaneously measure the constructs of humility and modesty, and restricted our operational definition to the qualities of a humble person, some of which include an accurate view of self, intellectual openness, and low self-focus.
Self Image & Helpfulness: Future Studies
There are many different factors besides being humble which may play a role in our desire to help strangers during a time of need. When asked about future studies regarding different types of research on these topics, Dr. LaBouff commented,
There are still many questions left to address before the relationship between humility and helping those in need is more fully understood. First, previous research indicates that situational factors (such as time pressures) are strong predictors of whether or not people help those in need. The interaction between such strong situational forces and a dispositional personality trait like humility might help us understand this relationship more clearly. Further, if humble people are more helpful, it may be important to investigate potential methods of increasing humility. Charitable organizations and others soliciting help might improve their chances of successfully receiving aid if humility can be altered by the nature of a situation.
Humility Research and Implications
Future studies may look at how much help, or even the type of help, humble persons are willing to provide. Future implications could be training programs used to increase helpfulness in society. These programs could work to help charities and the less fortunate more effectively, without relying as much on government programs and intervention.
LaBouff, J. & Rowatt, W. (2012). Humble persons are more helpful than less humble persons: Evidence from three studies. Journal of Positive Psychology. Accessed January 2, 2012.
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