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Do Nice Guys (and Girls) Really Finish Last?

by Goal Auzeen Saedi
Publication: Psychology Today

February 21, 2012


A new study out this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology put a new spin on the old "nice guys finish last" theory. Heralded by Dr. Timothy Judge from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, a series of 4 studies examined income as a function of agreeableness and gender. The first study found that sex and agreeableness (e.g., trust, compliance, altruism) were related to income, such that less agreeable individuals earned more than their agreeable counterparts. Men were more affected by this, meaning that there was a more significant discrepancy in income between disagreeable and agreeable men, relative to women. That is to say that women earned slightly more by being less agreeable, but not by much. Disagreeable women earned more than agreeable women in all 3 studies.

Study 2 controlled for the other 4 Big 5 traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and neuroticism) to confirm that the findings were due to agreeableness, and not another trait. Study 3 went on to determine whether or not the findings were influenced by job responsibility. For example, whether the effect could be more pronounced as a function of having a higher status job (e.g., engineer, attorney, etc.) as opposed to a lower status one (e.g., elementary school teacher, social worker, etc.). Hence, the study examined job responsibility and occupational status and found the results still held.

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