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Altruistic acts more common in states with high well-being
Date:1/29/2014

People are much more likely to decide to donate a kidney to a stranger an extraordinarily altruistic act in areas of the United States where levels of well-being are high, according to a new study.

"Anywhere from 11% to 54% of adults say that they'd be willing to consider altruistic kidney donation, but only a tiny fraction of them actually become donors," says psychological scientist Abigail Marsh of Georgetown University, senior author on the study. "Our work suggests that subjective well-being may be a factor that 'nudges' some adults into actually donating."

The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Defining altruism, and determining if it truly exists, has long been a topic of debate. Many seemingly selfless acts of altruism can be explained by indirect benefits to the do-gooder, such as a bump in social status or protection from the negative judgments of others.

Non-directed kidney donation is unique, says Marsh, because it meets the most stringent criteria for altruism. People willingly choose to donate their kidney to someone they aren't related to, someone they don't even know and the process of donating requires considerable time, and the risk of experiencing serious discomfort and pain.

So why do these people donate at all?

Marsh and lead author Kristin Brethel-Haurwitz hypothesized that it might have something to do with subjective well-being, given that well-being is associated with other prosocial behaviors, including volunteering and charitable giving.

To explore a possible link, the researchers used kidney donation data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and nationally representative well-being data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Just as they predicted, the data revealed a positive relationship between altruistic kidney donation and well-being: States with higher pe
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Contact: Anna Mikulak
amikulak@psychologicalscience.org
202-293-9300
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

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