Doing Good May Make People Look Better

Giving is good for you. For years, researchers have been finding that people who support charities or volunteer for causes can benefit from being generous.

For example, they might learn new things, meet new people or make others whom they care about happier. Researchers have also found that giving may make the givers themselves happier, more confident and even physically healthier.

As experts on the science of giving, we looked into whether there’s another possible upside to doing good: physical attractiveness. It may seem surprising, but across three peer-reviewed studies, we found that others rate people who give money or volunteer for nonprofits, give to their friends and even register as organ donors as more attractive. We also found that more attractive people are also more likely to give in various ways.

While our findings may raise eyebrows, we actually weren’t too surprised – the personal benefits of being generous are well established in our field.

3 studies

Our first study examined data from a large, nationally representative sample of older U.S. adults. We found that seniors who volunteered were rated as more attractive by interviewers than those who did not volunteer – despite the fact that the raters were unaware of respondents’ volunteering status.

The second study analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of U.S. teens for several years. We found that those who volunteered as teenagers were rated as more attractive once they became young adults. We also found the reverse: Those rated as more attractive by interviewers as teenagers were more likely to volunteer when they grew up. Again, raters did not know about participants’ volunteering history.

Our third study used data collected from a sample of Wisconsin teenagers from 1957 until 2011. We found that teens whose yearbook photos were rated as more attractive by 12 raters were more likely to give money over 40 years later, compared to their less attractive peers. We also found that these adult givers were rated as more attractive by interviewers than nongivers around 13 years later, when they were around the age of 72.

In all three studies, raters were asked to give their opinions on how good-looking participants were, using a rating scale where lower numbers meant less attractive, and higher numbers meant more so. Although beauty can be in the eye of the beholder, people often agree on who is more or less attractive.

A halo effect

Our results suggest that giving could make people better-looking, and that being more attractive could make people more likely to donate to charity or volunteer.

These findings build on previous research indicating that beauty confers a “halo” – people attribute other positive characteristics to them, such as intelligence and good social skills.

These halos may explain why attractive people tend to marry better-looking and more educated spouses and are more likely to be employed and make more money.

Those higher earnings, logically, mean that good-looking people have more money to give away. They also make more friends, which means they have larger social networks – subjecting them to more requests to donate and volunteer.

Not just a bias toward beauty

Because we were aware of this beauty bias, in all three of our studies, we statistically controlled for demographic factors such as gender, marital status and income.

We also controlled for respondents’ mental health, physical health and religious participation, given their links to both attractiveness and giving.

So, we know that our results are not explained by these preexisting differences. In other words, it is not merely that more attractive people are more likely to be married, richer, healthier or happier – and therefore more likely to give.

But, there could be other alternative explanations that were not measured.

Why this happens

We would love to know whether doing good actually causes people to be more good-looking. But it is not possible to figure that out for sure.

For example, in studies on what smoking does to your health, scientists could not require some participants to be long-term smokers and other participants to avoid tobacco altogether. Such arrangements would not be ethical or even possible.

Similarly, we can’t require some participants to be long-term givers and others to never volunteer or support charities. Most people give in some way, so asking them to stop would not be realistic, or even ethical.

Still, by following what a group of specific individuals do over time, we can discover whether giving at one time can predict whether someone will be more physically attractive at another time – just like we know that people who smoke have higher rates of lung cancer than those who don’t.

Overall, using the best available evidence, we find that it is indeed possible that doing good today may make you appear better-looking tomorrow.

[You need to understand the coronavirus pandemic, and we can help. Read The Conversation’s newsletter.]

To be sure, we don’t know why beauty and doing good are linked. But it’s possible that people who take care of others are also more likely to take care better care of themselves. This possibility is supported by our previous research showing that volunteers are more likely to get flu shots and take other health precautions.

Taken together, our three studies confirm the link between moral and physical beauty that was described in ancient Greece by the poet Sappho: “He who is fair to look upon is good, and he who is good, will soon be fair also.”

Our findings also contradict myths that beautiful people are shallow or mean, as suggested in the movie “Legally Blonde” and countless other “mean-girls” films about teens.

Instead, we have found another way that doing good could be good for you.

By: Sara Konrath Associate Professor, Indiana University, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, IUPUI & Femida Handy Professor of Social Policy at the School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania

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D. L. Hughley points out the hypocrisy behind painting Black people with broad strokes

COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps Could Be Turned Into Tools For Domestic Abuse

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If governments don’t focus on strong privacy protections in their COVID-19 contact tracking tools, it could exacerbate domestic abuse and endanger survivors, according to a warning from women’s support charities.

They’ve urged the U.K. government to include domestic abuse and violence against women and girls (VAWG) experts in the development of such initiatives.

Though the U.K. doesn’t yet have a widely available track and trace app, the charities – including Women’s Aid and Refuge – are already anxious enough about the current tracing program, where infected people are called up and asked to register themselves online as someone who has contracted COVID-19. They’re then asked to share details on people with whom they’ve been in contact so they too can be informed.

In a joint whitepaper, the nonprofits said they were anxious about contact tracing staff inadvertently leaking contact details of survivors to perpetrators. They also raised fears the program could be turned into a “tool for abuse.”

“For example, perpetrators may make fraudulent claims that they have been in contact with survivors in order for them to be asked to self-isolate unnecessarily, and in these circumstances survivors will have no means to identify the perpetrator as the original source,” they warned. “Perpetrators or associates may also pose as contact tracing staff and make contact with victims [or] survivors requesting they self-isolate or requesting personal information.”

The paper also claims abusers are already using the coronavirus pandemic for “coercive control,” in some cases deliberately breathing, spitting and coughing in survivors’ faces. As Forbes previously reported, the sharing of child abuse material has also spiked during global COVID-19 lockdowns.

As for apps, the report warned they required location services to be switched on. “While the NHS app itself doesn’t collect location data, if a perpetrator has installed spyware onto a survivor’s phone or is able to hack into it, then turning on location services will expose their location.”

Problems with Palantir?

The charities also raised concerns about a number of companies who’d partnered with the U.K. on the contact tracing initiatives. They said Serco, which is handling recruiting for contact tracing staff, “has a significant track record of failings and human rights violations, including running a controversial women’s immigration detention centre where staff have been accused of sexual misconduct and involvement in unlawful evictions of asylum seekers.” Serco also recently had to apologize for leaking email addresses of contact tracer staff.

Serco denies that it has any kind of significant track record of failing and human rights violations and that the evictions to which the charities are referring were in Scotland and were ruled legal. It also said that in seven years there had been no substantiated complaints about any sexual wrongdoing at the Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, where reports had revealed allegations.

“We are proud to be supporting the government’s test and trace programme with our Tier 3 contact centre team working from pre-approved Public Health England scripts. This is important work and we would like to thank all our teams who have stepped forward. In just four week we mobilised many thousands of people, which is a huge achievement, and we are focussed on ensuring that all our people are able to support the government’s programme going forwards,” a Serco spokesperson said.

Palantir, the $20 billion big data crunching business, also raised an eyebrow. The company, which has secured millions of dollars in contracts to help health agencies manage the outbreak, has come in for criticism for assisting U.S. immigration authorities on finding and rejecting illegal aliens.

Palantir hadn’t responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

UK’s delayed COVID-19 app

The charities’ warning comes as the U.K. announced its contact tracing app would be shifting to the Apple and Google models, which promise stronger privacy protections than the app being tested by the government. The main difference is in where user information goes. In the government’s app, anonymized phone IDs of both the infected person and the people they’ve been near are sent to a centralized server, which determines who to warn about possible COVID-19 infection.

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In the Apple and Google model, only the phone ID of the infected person is sent to a centralized database. The phone then downloads the database and decides where to send alerts. The latter means the government has access to far less data on people’s phones, pleasing some critics but aggravating the government.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday that Apple’s restrictions on third-party apps’ use of Bluetooth may’ve been one reason the government’s own app wasn’t as successful as hoped. Bluetooth is being used to determine whether an infected person has been in close proximity with another person’s phone.

Earlier this week, Amnesty International cybersecurity researcher Claudio Guarnieri warned that global rollouts of contact tracing apps were a privacy “trash fire.” After analyzing 11 apps, he found many contained privacy shortcomings. So concerned was Norway that it suspended its tool.

Even with lockdowns easing, those who’re infected are still being advised to isolate. However,  the NHS guidance says that “the household isolation instruction as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19) does not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.” That message may not have been amplified as much as it should’ve been.

 

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I’m associate editor for Forbes, covering security, surveillance and privacy. I’ve been breaking news and writing features on these topics for major publications since 2010. As a freelancer, I worked for The Guardian, Vice Motherboard, Wired and BBC.com, amongst many others. I was named BT Security Journalist of the year in 2012 and 2013 for a range of exclusive articles, and in 2014 was handed Best News Story for a feature on US government harassment of security professionals. I like to hear from hackers who are breaking things for either fun or profit and researchers who’ve uncovered nasty things on the web. Tip me on Signal at 447837496820. I use WhatsApp and Treema too. Or you can email me at TBrewster@forbes.com, or tbthomasbrewster@gmail.com.

Source: https://www.forbes.com

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