People who donate a kidney to a stranger have unusual values and beliefs

WASHINGTON POST | Lenny Bernstein
Courtesy of Angela Cuozzo
Would you donate a kidney to someone you've never met? The idea is layered with soul-searching judgments — questions of risk and benefit, sacrifice and selfishness, not to mention the physical pain of the surgery itself.

But a small number of people have done this, and researchers at Georgetown University are studying them, providing a window on altruism in a world seemingly dominated by a me-first philosophy.

“Extraordinary altruists,” as the researchers call them, come from all age, race and socioeconomic groups. Some are religious, others are not. But unlike almost everyone else, they don't see less value in a stranger's life than in the life of a close friend or relative, the researchers found. And they are genuinely puzzled that the rest of the world doesn't view other people the same way.

“They don’t see it as something necessarily heroic or that they should be given praise for,” said Kruti M. Vekaria, a doctoral student in psychology who was part of the team that conducted a study published Friday in the journal Nature Human Behavior. “They think it’s something everybody should do.” Continue reading
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