The Selfish Society

From The Telegraph:

Selfishrealstory_1637385f What is it that drives people to be brave and good? Psychologists set out to explore this intriguing question by studying a group of Holocaust “rescuers” who, at great risk to themselves, had saved the lives of Jews. This group was compared with the “bystanders” living in the same area or even the same street who didn’t help or refused to help when asked. The “immigrants” formed a control group: they were Europeans originating from the same or similar neighbourhoods as the rescuers and the bystanders but who had emigrated in the years leading up to the Second World War.

When the personality traits of the groups were compared, the bystanders and the immigrants were similar on every measure bar risk-taking (the immigrants scored slightly higher). The rescuers, however, scored higher than the other groups for every trait: altruism, moral reasoning, risk-taking, autonomy, tolerance, self-direction and, most strikingly, empathy and a sense of social responsibility. In The Selfish Society, psychotherapist Sue Gerhardt cites this 2005 study, published in the Journal of Personality, as an example of how individuals with a high degree of emotional development – as exemplified by the rescuers – are a force for good in a society corrupted by a didactic ideology.

More here.