People think they're nicer than they actually are, study finds

Nice people earn more money too

Rachel Hosie
Monday 13 March 2017 14:04 GMT

If you give money to a homeless man or woman, does that make you a nice person? How often do you offer to help someone struggling with heavy bags? Do you frequently give blood?

You may consider yourself to be a nice person, but according to a new study you’re probably not as nice as you think.

Psychologists from Goldsmiths, University of London have discovered that 98 per cent of British people think they’re part of the nicest 50 per cent of the population.

Participants in the study were given a list of “nice” behaviours and asked which ones they do.

The most frequently carried out gestures were giving directions to strangers, holding doors open and giving up seats on public transport - all perfectly nice things to do, no doubt.

However two thirds of people admitted that they rarely if ever help others carrying heavy shopping bags, five-sixths infrequently give money to strangers, and only a quarter of people give blood or help elderly or infirm people across the road often.

The scores from the questionnaire were validated by a tool called Facereader which monitors features such as furrowing of brows, how eyes appear and shape of mouth, thus picking up on expressions usually indiscernible to the human eye.

The study was conducted in partnership with Monarch Airlines to look into whether there is a link between nice people and their levels of health, wealth and happiness.

The researchers found that the people who rated themselves as “nice” were likely to be richer (nicer people earn £3,500 more than those who are ‘nasty’) and happier, but not necessarily more pleasant.

81 per cent of the “nice” participants reported being content in their lives – almost three times the number of “not very nice” participants (30 per cent).

“Our study shows that participants who report that they are ‘nice’ scored higher on emotional intelligence – which can help them deal better with stress and chaos in their lives,” said Professor Jonathan Freeman, who led the study.

The results reveal that our opinions of our own niceness do not always stack up with the psychometric data.

“We observed a really interesting result in relation to people’s ratings of how nice they are, and how they scored on validated measures of individual differences,” Freeman said.

“For example, more than half of participants who rated themselves as the second-highest level of nice scored below the sample average on agreeableness - so people think they’re nicer than they really may be.”

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