The present study aimed to examine differences in the altruism of men and women and contextualise with conclusions/future postulations of Simmons and Emanuele. Two Hundred and seventy participants were asked to complete The Self Report Altruism Scale (Rushton, Chrisjohn & Fekken, 1981), which required the participants to indicate on a scale from never to very often 20 items that discussed a variety of altruistic behaviours. Participants’ answers were collected and ranged from 20 (low altruism) to 100 (high altruism). Results were found to be non-significant and little numerical difference between the mean male and female altruism scores was observed. These results were inconsistent with Simmons and Emanuele’s (2007) findings that females are more altruistic than males.]
Gender Differences and Altruistic Behaviour
There is rapid growth in literature examining the concept of altruism and what affects and influences individuals to behave more altruistically and which type of individuals are likely to be more altruistic. Altruism is the selfless concern for happiness and wellbeing of others. Altruism is the behaviour or action of helping someone else without any expectation of reward or regard to your own self-intertest. An example of altruistic behaviour would be if an individual donated money or their time to a charity/organisation or helped someone, whether that be a stranger or a friend without the aim of getting recognition for it.
Numerous studies have explored and investigated altruistic behaviours and how they differ between males and females. Simmons and Emanuele (2007) stated that females are more altruistic than males, as they found whilst conducting their study that women were thought to donate more of both money and time compared with males. Another previous study found that women were increasingly more generous than that of men (Andreoni & Vesterlund, 2001). They concluded that men tended to be either completely selfish or completely selfless, compared to women who tended to evenly share. Eckel and Grossman (1996), also found similarly to the other studies mentioned above that women on average donated almost twice as much time or money that that of men.
Thus, the present study aims to examine differences in the altruism of men and women and contextualise with conclusions/future postulations of Simmons and Emanuele.
It is hypothesised that Females’ altruism scores will be significantly larger compared with that of male altruism scores.
The sample consisted of 270 undergraduate university students, comprising 217 females, 48 males, 3 other and 5 gender fluid. Participants were aged between 17 and 58 years (M=22.25, SD=6.91). Gender fluid data was excluded from this study. Participants partook in the study as a part of their course requirement and were provided with consent forms prior to commencement. Table 1 presents the frequency of the sample with an Australian Citizenship.
Frequency of participants with Australian Citizenship
“The Self Report Altruism Scale” (SRA). The self-report scale was developed by Rushton, Chrisjohn & Fekken (1981), it was a test designed to examine and measure altruistic behaviour. It consisted of 20 items that discussed a variety of behaviours that related to helping others. The self-report scale was presented in an online format in which participants were to rate each of the 20 items under the headings ‘Never’, ‘Once’, ‘More Than Once’, ‘Often’ and ‘Very Often’, according to how frequently they engaged in that specific altruistic behaviour.
Demographic Questionnaire. Presented above The Self Report Altruism Scale, demographic data was collected. It required information on gender, age and Australian Citizenship. This demographic data would provide information on the characteristics of the sample.
Presented in an online format participants were first asked to fill out and complete the Demographics Questionnaire, which was inquiring on their gender, age and Australian citizenship. The participants then completed the SRAS and were to identify how often they had performed each of the altruistic behaviours on a scale from very often to never. The participants’ scores can range from 20 (low altruism) to 100 (high altruism).
An example item on the SRAS is “I have delayed an elevator and held the door open for a stranger”, which a participant would then select an answer ranging from either never to very often.
Each point on the scale was worth a specific value and was scored according to these guidelines:
- Never is worth 1,
- Once is worth 2,
- More than Once is worth 3,
- Often is worth 4 and
- Very Often is worth 5
After the participants complete the SRS the score is added up and recorded.
Table 2 illustrates mean difference in altruism score between males and females below.
Mean difference of Altruism scores between males and females
To investigate whether there was a difference in altruism score between the two independent groups of males and females an independent t-test was used. The t-test was not statistically significant showing no mean difference between male and female altruism scores, t(263)=0.17, p=>.05.
The present study aimed to re-examine differences in the altruism of men and women and contextualise with conclusions/future postulations of Simmons and Emanuele’s (2007) study
The hypothesis that Females’ altruism scores will be significantly larger compared with that of male altruism scores was not supported and showed no significant difference between male and female altruism scores as show by independent samples Also, only very little numerical difference between the mean scores was observed.
These results were inconsistent with Simmons and Emanuele’s (2007) findings that females are more altruistic than males. They were also inconsistent with Andreoni and Vesterlund (2001) findings which stated that females were increasingly more generous than males. This may be due to the limited male sample in this study of only 48 men compared with 217 females. Another reason why the results may be inconsistent is due to social desirability bias, which unfortunately is very common when using self-report measures, as participants have the tendency to try and illustrate oneself in the best possible light and this can then in turn interfere and possibly distort the results collected (Fisher, 1993).
One limitation of this study is that the sample used is unrepresentative of the entire population. A large difference in the proportion of male and female participants exists as well as the fact that the participants were only selected from one particular course at one university. Having this unrepresentative sample may influence and skew the results collected and mean that valid and reliable inferences cannot be made from these results. As well as this, having an unrepresentative sample also rises the problem of whether these results can be generalised to the entire population. To ameliorate this issue the sample used in the study should more accurately replicate that of the whole population, so having a balanced ratio of females to males and also randomly selecting participants from multiple other universities.
The present study also has methodological strengths. The study includes a large sample size of 270 which means that from the results valid and reliable comments can be made. Large sample size will also ensure a more accurate mean value and will help to identify any outliers that may skew or influence the results.
The results of this present study illustrate little to no difference in altruism scores of males and females, most other studies investigating gender differences in altruism provide strong evidence that in fact yes, females are more altruistic then men. And the most likely reason this present study did not reflect what previous studies showed could be due to the unrepresentative sample which had a very disproportioned number of males to female participants producing result that didn’t reflect that of Simmons and Emanuele’s (2007).
To conclude, the present study did not support Simmons and Emanuele’ (2007) findings that females are more altruistic then males and so for the future a more representative samples may be needed. Multiple studies have looked into examining the gender differences between altruism, but very little has investigated what influences individuals to behave altruistically and in what cases are people less likely and more likely to be altruistic, this may be topic that should be researched in the future.
- Andreoni, J., & Vesterlund, L. (2001). Which is the fair sex? Gender differences in altruism. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 116(1), 293-312. doi:10.1162/003355301556419
- Simmons, W. O., & Emanuele, R. (2007). Male-female giving differentials are women more altruistic?. Journal of Economic Studies, 34(6), 534-550. doi:10.1108/01443580710830989
- Eckel, C. C., & Grossman, P. J. (1996). Altruism in anonymous dictator games. Games and Economic Behavior, 16(2), 181-191. doi:10.1006/game.1996.0081
- Fisher, R. J. (1993). Social desirability bias and the validity of indirect questioning. Journal of Consumer Research, 20(2), 303-315.
- Rushton, J. P., Chrisjohn, R. D., & Fekken, G. C. (1981). The altruistic personality and the self-report altruism scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 2(4), 293-302. doi:10.1016/0191-8869(81)90084-2