Chart of the day: Nice guys do indeed finish last

at 02:52 PM ET, 12/02/2011

Wired’s Jonah Lehrer flags new research that confirms a well-known Green Day hypothesis: nice guys do, in fact, finish last. The forthcoming study from Thomas Judge, Beth Livingston and Charlice Hurst explored the relationship between agreeability and income. And what they found was that the less agreeable the guy, the more money he makes:

“Men who are one standard deviation below the mean on agreeableness earn an average of 18.31% ($9,772) more than men one standard deviation above the mean on agreeableness,” they conclude. “Meanwhile, the ‘disagreeableness premium’ for women was only 5.47% ($1,828).”

Should all guys become Ari Golds? Not quite. As Lehrer explains, the scientific definition of agreeableness has more to with holding firm on a position rather than yelling and screaming. “While more agreeable people are quick to compromise for the good of the group — conflict is never fun — their disagreeable colleagues insist on holding firm,” he writes. “They don’t mind fighting for what they want.” And when what they want is a higher salary, that can translate into an income bump.

The effect shows up for women too, but to a much lesser extent. The researchers suggest this may be tied up in gender norms, where women are not expected to exhibit aggressive behaviors. “Because low agreeableness is at odds with norms for feminine behavior,” they write, “disagreeableness will not likely be the same asset for women as it is for men.”

 
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