Recent research suggests that our tendency to be “nice” can be separated into two related but distinct personality traits: politeness and compassion. We see these differences play out in social decision making, where politeness is linked to being fair and compassion to help others. Decades of research have shown that personality traits describing how well we treat others are often observed together. These are summarised by the term agreeableness, one of five broad dimensions capturing the majority of human personality. Some of our most valued qualities — kindness, integrity, empathy, modesty, patience, and trustworthiness — are nestled within this dimension. They are instilled in us at an early age and reflect important standards through which we judge others and ourselves.
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