Generosity as a Costly Signal

Kafashan, Sara
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University of Guelph

Some researchers argue that generous behaviours, such as large charitable donations, may serve as costly signals to broadcast one’s resources. Others, however, acknowledge that generosity may advertise one’s physical ability (e.g., rescuing a person from danger) and/or honestly signal one’s cooperative intent (e.g., volunteering at a homeless shelter). Although the evidence illustrates that generosity may be a costly signal of at least three fundamentally different qualities, researchers have not acknowledged the different forms of generosity and, instead, continue to treat generosity as a unidimensional construct. The aim of the current research was twofold: (1) assess the underlying qualities that may be signalled via generosity, and (2) explore female short-term and long-term mate preferences for generous acts that may signal different qualities. As hypothesized, generosity signalled three qualities: an individual’s resources, physical abilities, and/or cooperative intent. Contrary to predictions, however, there was no difference between female short-term and long-term mate preferences.

generosity, female mate preference, generous acts