Saturday, August 4, 2007

Cherchez la femme

Scientists have found a new explanation for conspicuous acts of charity. Or perhaps it's the same old explanation with scientific validation.

After "priming" male subjects with romantic notions (you'll have to read the article to get the details on just how they did this), researchers "found that when requests for benevolence were financial, rather than time-consuming, romantically primed men were happy to chip in extravagantly. Giving money to charity is thus more akin to conspicuous consumption than it is to blatant benevolence. The primed men were also willing (or at least said they were willing) to act heroically as well as spend—but only if the action suggested was life-threatening."

Is it possible that men seek a reputation for benevolence and heroism for the same reason they seek success in business? As Alexandre Dumas wrote in 1854, Il y a une femme dans toute les affaires; aussitôt qu'on me fait un rapport, je dis: 'Cherchez la femme'. Translated into English this reads: "There is a woman in every case; as soon as they bring me a report, I say, 'Look for the woman'."

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