We care about the well-being of strangers

People often behave as though they are interested in the wellbeing of the strangers they meet. This is the finding of new research published in the journal PLoS ONE, which looked at the readiness individuals show for cooperating with individuals, their interest in tracking the reputation of others and the ways in which they treat other people.

Max Krasnow, a Postdoctoral Researcher in Psychology at the University of California Santa Barbara's Center for Evolutionary Psychology, noted people often appear to have an interest in the behaviour of individuals they come across, despite the fact they are unlikely to ever see them again.

Mr Krasnow gave the example of a person helping somebody in a wheelchair with their shopping, observing witnessing such an action will elicit feelings of kindness to the helper.

"Equally, if people see someone driven off the road by a reckless driver, they might become angry enough to pursue and even confront the driver," he added.

Chartered Psychologist Sue Firth comments:

"From quite an early age we learn that it’s great to be liked and horrible to be disliked. This need for approval and discomfort with disapproval, means that when we meet strangers we’re much more likely to give out positive energy and demonstrate a desire to care about people. Our desire to help is therefore representative of how much we enjoy being well thought about . Sending out a message that’s uncaring would not be welcoming and incur criticism.

"We can also be quite judgemental of others when faced with negative traits and this impression can last a long time, which is why people show anger when someone is thoughtless or unkind."