Lead author Jordan LaBouff, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Maine, who collaborated on the research while a doctoral candidate at Baylor University, said students in an experiment were asked how many hours during the coming three weeks they would be willing to meet with an injured student to provide aid. Humble persons offered more time to help than less humble ones, LaBouff said.
In another study, students were asked to associate as quickly as possible traits that applied to themselves.
"The only other personality trait that has shown any effect is agreeableness, but we found that humility predicted helping over and above that," LaBouff said in a statement.
In most cases, a decision to help someone in need is influenced by temporary personal or situational factors such as time pressure, number of bystanders, momentary feelings of empathy or a person's own distress, said study leader Wade C. Rowatt, an associate professor at Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences.
"The research indicates that humility is a positive quality with potential benefits," Rowatt said. "While several factors influence whether people will volunteer to help a fellow human in need, it appears that humble people, on average, are more helpful than individuals who are egotistical or conceited."
The findings were published online in the Journal of Positive Psychology.