Charitable acts may backfire, researchers report

Medhill:

If someone volunteers at a charity hoping to reel in a love interest, is that act still viewed as altruistic? Not likely, according to a study published in the January edition of Psychological Science.

Yale University researchers found that people tend to view personal and corporate charitable acts performed for personal gain as less moral than other types of self-interested behavior. They have coined this phenomenon the “tainted-altruism effect.”

“We were interested in how people evaluate these pro-social efforts in situations where the person stands to benefit personally,” said lead author George Newman, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management in New Haven, Conn. “What we found through a number of different experiments is that people seem to regard those actions pretty negatively, and in fact view them worse than if someone is just self-interested and not trying to do any good at all.”

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