Which countries are the most kind to strangers?

Independent field experiments in 23 large cities around the world measured three types of spontaneous, nonemergency helping: alerting a pedestrian who dropped a pen, offering help to a pedestrian with a hurt leg trying to reach a pile of dropped magazines, and assisting a blind person cross the street. The results indicated that a city’s helping rate was relatively stable across the three measures, suggesting that helping of strangers is a cross-culturally meaningful characteristic of a place; large cross-cultural variation in helping emerged, ranging from an overall rate of 93% in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to 40% in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. Overall helping across cultures was inversely related to a country’s economic productivity; countries with the cultural tradition of simpatiawere on average more helpful than countries with no such tradition. These findings constitute a rich body of descriptive data and novel hypotheses about the sociocultural, economic, and psychological determinants of helping behavior across cultures.

Source: “Cross-Cultural Differences in Helping Strangers” from Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Vol. 32, No. 5, 543-560 (2001)

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