If you believe studies into selfishness, we are all terrible people | Arwa Mahdawi

Selfishness If you like sitting in window seats, believe in God and go to the gym, science says youre probably a self-centred monster

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In these trying times, when everything seems awful, its worth remembering that people are fundamentally good. Except, actually, they arent. According to a swath of recent studies, the world is full of terribly self-centred people, and Im afraid youre probably among them. Indeed, you probably think this article is about you, dont you? Well, perhaps you dont. Not all men are created equally awful and some people are more self-absorbed than others. For purely charitable reasons, I have carefully collated some of the latest selfishness science to help you quantify just how much of an egomaniac you are.

Religious people do mean well

Many of us associate morality with praying to an omniscient being who demands unconditional adoration and is fond of raining down the odd plague of locusts. According to a report from the Pew Research Center, most people around the world think it is necessary to believe in God to be a good person. As it turns out, however, religion can have a negative influence on altruism. A 2015 study found that children who are brought up to be religious are meaner than their secular peers. This doesnt mean that being an atheist makes you a saint, of course; Im sure Richard Dawkins would admit to having a selfish gene or two.

Men are the selfish sex

Its not a feminist conspiracy, its just science, Im afraid: men are more self-centred. A recent study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, has found male neural reward systems are more stimulated by self-centredness while women are more likely to get a dopamine rush when helping others. This doesnt necessarily mean mens brains are wired more selfishly than womens brains; its likely more nurture than nature. From an early age, women tend to be told that they are born to run around looking after others, while men are encouraged to do whatever it takes to run the world. As the researchers write: [Gender] stereotypes might function as self-fulfilling prophecies, and produce the gender differences they claim to describe.

Bigger muscles lead to a smaller heart

A recent paper in the journal of Evolution & Human Behaviour asks: is sociopolitical egalitarianism related to bodily and facial formidability in men? (English translation: are hot, muscly men horrible?) The answer seems to be yes: well-built men are less likely to support the redistribution of wealth than their less brawny brethren. According to the study, authored by researchers from Brunel University London, the London School of Economics and Harvard University, spending more time in the gym is linked to a more selfish socioeconomic worldview. This is great news for any guys out there looking for a good excuse not to work out: just remind yourself that lifting weights makes you a terrible person.

With chocolate, its every woman for herself

If youre a man feeling maligned by my findings so far, dont worry. Its a pretty steadfast rule of social science that for every research study conclusion, there is an equal and opposite conclusion. Indeed, there is plenty of research that shows women are not the fairer sex. A few years ago, for example, the Daily Mail breathlessly reported that women are more selfish than men they ignore charity workers at the front door and take a bigger piece when they split chocolate. If youre wondering which university this research came from it didnt. It was a survey by Original Volunteers, a British volunteering organisation. You cant trust experts these days, after all.

Navel-gazers prefer the window seat

Window or aisle? It seems a simple enough question, yet your preferred aeroplane seating arrangement reflects where you sit on the selfishness spectrum. According to a recent article in that well-known journal of social psychology, the Telegraph, opting for a window seat means you are more selfish than those who plump for the aisle. What complex longitudinal analysis led the Telegraph to this conclusion? Well, it called up a few doctors at posh private practices for a chat. Dr Becky Spelman, chief psychologist at the Private Therapy Clinic on Harley Street, said: Passengers who favour the window seat like to be in control, tend to take an every man for themselves attitude towards life and are often more easily irritable. They also like to nest and prefer to exist in their own bubble.

Economists are egoists

The late Gordon Tullock, an eminent economist, once said the average human being is about 95% selfish in the narrow sense of the term. This somewhat pessimistic view that people are inherently selfish and markets work through pure self-interest informs much of traditional economics. It is perhaps no surprise then that numerous studies show that studying economics makes you act in a more self-interested manner than other people.

Hell is other people: avoid everyone

In short, my analysis of selfishness science suggests that muscly male economists who like organised religion and the window seat are some of the worst people in the world. You should avoid them at all costs. Ultimately, however, it seems that just about everyone is selfish and there is no exit from awfulness. On that note: have a nice day!
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