Human Nature

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 331–341 | Cite as

Altruism Can Be Assessed Correctly Based on Impression

  • Ryo OdaEmail author
  • Noriko Yamagata
  • Yuki Yabiku
  • Akiko Matsumoto-Oda


Detection of genuine altruists could be a solution to the problem of subtle cheating. Brown et al. (Evol Psychol 1:42–69, 2003) found that humans could detect altruists using nonverbal cues. However, their experiments can be improved upon in several ways, and further investigation is needed to determine whether altruist-detection abilities are human universals. In our experiment, we used video clips of natural conversations as the stimulus. We asked a sample of Japanese undergraduates to rate their own level of altruism and then to estimate the videotaped targets’ altruism using the same scale. The perceivers were able to estimate the targets’ altruism levels accurately. Perceivers’ altruism score did not affect their ability to discriminate between altruists and non-altruists. Perceivers’ impressions of the altruist and non-altruist targets were also found to be different. Coding of nonverbal behavior of the targets revealed that altruists exhibited more “felt smiles” than non-altruists, which also supports the results of the previous study.


Altruist detection Facial expression Impression Nonverbal behavior Subtle cheating 



We would like to thank Dr. Hiroki Ozono for his advice. This research was partially supported by the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C), 19500225, 2007.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryo Oda
    • 1
    Email author
  • Noriko Yamagata
    • 2
  • Yuki Yabiku
    • 3
  • Akiko Matsumoto-Oda
    • 3
  1. 1.Graduate School of EngineeringNagoya Institute of TechnologyNagoyaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceNagoya Institute of TechnologyNagoyaJapan
  3. 3.Department of Welfare and CultureOkinawa UniversityNahaJapan

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