“Steady Eddies”

Kumar Balani

NEW YORK — People have a variety of character traits. Some are positive that help them attain goals of success generally accepted as desirable by society such as awards, promotions and salary increases.

Human traits are numerous. Six of them, at the right levels, are important to success – altruism, patience, negative reciprocity, positive reciprocity, risk-taking, and trust. These particular traits were linked to success in a recent large-scale global research project – Global Preferences Survey – involving some 80,000 respondents worldwide, including about a thousand Filipinos.

How would you respond to these two parts of a question relating to altruism, aka generosity?

First, would you say “yes” to donating money to good causes with no specific amount requested?

Second, what if you unexpectedly received P54,000 as a bonus to your salary last year or won that amount in a lottery. Then someone like a relative asks you: how much of that amount are you going to donate to a good cause?

Would your answer be a “yes” to the first question? If so, how much would you donate? The number of people who say “yes” constitutes a qualitative measure of altruism. The amount they specify from what they received is the quantitative measure of their altruism.

The first question – willingness to give to good causes – was given a weight of 0.365 in this study. The second question – the donation amount decision – was given a weight of 0.635, with the two combined equaling 1.0. The global mean (average) was set at zero. Each response was measured as a positive or negative deviation score from the mean.

Steady eddies but also high risk-takers

Filipinos’ responses to altruism and to traits mentioned above, generally paint a picture of them that I characterize as conservative, or being consistent with the term Steady Eddie.

There is only one exception, however: they are high risk-takers. Their responses to questions on risk-taking put them in the No.11 rank or in the top one-seventh group among the 76 countries.

Steady Eddies are people who are coachable and trainable, conservative in thought, dependable, easy to work with, grateful for all they receive and give back some of that, and very loyal.

Due to lack of space for trait-by-trait analysis, we provide you here a table that gives you a glimpse on how people of the Philippines rank on the six traits, sandwiched between people of three countries each who scored highest at the top, and the lowest on each trait, at the bottom.

We do want to emphasize two important items. The Philippines scored a high 0.38 on altruism and ranked No.12 on it. Likewise, it scored a high 0.36 and ranked a very high No. 6 on trust.

The data we’ve presented in this column were gathered by Armin Falk and five other researchers at Briq Institute on Behavior and Inequality. Around 80,000 individuals were the respondents in 76 countries representing 90 percent of the world’s population and income.

The findings were the core part of their article entitled Global Evidence on Economic Preferences published in the November 2018 issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Why are these results obtained on Filipinos (and other nationals) important? We quote the study team: “Preference measures can allow for improved prediction of many important economic behaviors.”

In sum, we emphasize: the responses obtained (preference measures) should be looked at in depth by academics, business leaders and owners and the government to improve their collective economic behavior (actions) to substantially increase Philippine gross domestic product for the benefit of all.

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