It’s still up for debate whether nice guys finish last, but what we do know is that they donate sperm.

New research published this week in the Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology by behavioral economist Stephen Whyte, Ph.D., lets out a little secret about sperm donors who exclusively donate online: they are statistically proven, on average, to be more agreeable people.

In an online survey of 22 to 26-year-old males on “PrideAngel,” a UK-based fertility site connecting aspiring parents with donors, Whyte’s study asked 7,696 donors 42 questions. The study looks specifically at the difference between donors who donate exclusively online and informal donors who also have a history of clinical donation.

PrideAngel Website
Founded in 2009 by Erika Tranfield and her partner, Karen Carmichael, the connection service PrideAngel helps couples of all types find donors or recipients.

Whyte’s study emerges in the context of a growing online marketplace for donors, which allows for more flexibility than a clinic.

“Men and women who interact on the connection websites and forums have made a conscious decision to be or find a donor outside of the traditional clinical settings. These developing cyber economies operate outside regulatory frameworks and record-keeping, which makes very difficult to conduct research into the micro-level behaviour of participants,” says Whyte in a statement.

What Do We Know About These Agreeable Men?

Previous research by University of Cambrdige researcher Tabitha Freeman, Ph.D., from 2016 analyzed a separate dataset from “PrideAngel,” finding that sperm donors from two years ago are most driven by the desire to help others and to pass on their genes.

Financial compensation was deemed the least important, with 49.6 percent of participants saying it was “not important at all.” Or at least that’s what sperm donors said two years ago.

Two years later, we know just how kind these informal donors are — 14.5 percent more agreeable than their clinical counterparts, on average. Defined by the Big Five personality traits, agreeableness captures altruism, kindness, and affection in its definition. The other four traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and neuroticism) didn’t stand out in the study.

Whyte also found that relationship status played a role in donor popularity. Donors already in committed relationships tended to be higher ranked, since a relationship could signal to a potential parent that the donor is a cooperative person.

Why Donors are Going Digital

One reason the 14.5 percent gap may have emerged is the reality that working within the online marketplace requires more people skills, as well as a higher time and emotional investment.

“Formal donation by males (technically) only requires them to attend a clinic and provide a sample at their convenience. Informal donation is a two-sided interaction requiring logistical precision in coordinating timing and travel as well as alignment with a recipient’s fertility needs and some level or emotional or psychological support,” explains Whyte. Basically, this empathetic group is self-selecting, since the process itself takes more effort.

For future research, Whyte may explore what precisely jumpstarts the choice to donate, as well as fleshing out the motivations of donors outside the informal marketplace.