Research – Kindness and Giving 2017-01-13T13:41:28+00:00

Research – Kindness and Giving

Kathryn E. Buchanana and Anat Bardi conducted a 10 day study, in which they measured the life satisfaction of a group of British people aged 18 to 60. Some participants were asked to perform acts of kindness every day, and this tended to increase their life satisfaction, even after only 10 days.

Read the study:

Acts of Kindness and Acts of Novelty Affect Life Satisfaction

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text from our footnote* into your browser top bar)

Myriam Mongrain, Jacqueline Chin and Leah Shapira performed an online survey, in which they tested participants’ happiness and asked them to perform compassionate acts, e.g. talking to a homeless person, throughout a 1-week period. They tested their happiness after the week and at various times over the next 6 months. Their results suggest that practising compassion can provide lasting improvements in happiness and self-esteem.

Read the research:

Practicing Compassion Increases Happiness and Self-Esteem

Neuroscientists James Rilling and Gregory Berns from Emory University performed a study in which they scanned people’s brains whilst pairs of participants played a simple strategy game – in which a person could chose to co-operate with the other player or to play the game selfishly. The brain-scans revealed that helping your opponent caused brain activity in areas of the brain associated with receiving rewards and experiencing pleasure – suggesting that helping other people brings us the same pleasure we get from the gratification of our personal desires.

Read the study:

A Neural Basis for Social Cooperation

Lara Aknin et al. analysed survey data from 136 countries in a study for the Harvard Business School. They found that across the globe, people who are altruistic—in this case, people who were generous financially, such as with charitable donations—were happiest overall.

Read the research:

Prosocial Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Psychological Universal

Further Interesting Research

Sonja Lyubomirsky et al. found that the timings of when you perform acts of kindness affect how happy it makes you feel.

They asked students to perform five acts of kindness per week over the course of 6 weeks (e.g. donating blood, helping a friend with work, visiting an elderly relative, or writing a thank you note). These acts enhanced the students’ happiness in the short-term, but there was a significant increase in well-being if, each week, all five acts were committed in a single day. The authors concluded that because many of the kind acts were small ones, spreading them over the course of a week might have diminished their effect.

You can read about the study here:

Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change

Kristin Layous et al. asked 9-11 year old children from Vancouver to perform various acts of kindness over the course of four weeks. They found that not only did the children doing these acts get happier over time, but they also became more popular with their peers.

Read the research here:

Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents

Lara Aknin, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton conducted a study, suggesting that sometimes, even thinking about being kind makes us happier.

They asked participants to think hard about something they’d recently bought for either themselves or someone else, and then asked them about their happiness. Afterwards, participants were given a small sum of money and chose whether to spend it on themselves or someone else. Many (though not all) participants who remembered a purchase they’d made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection. And also, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend money on someone else in the near future. The results suggest a kind of “positive feedback loop” between kindness and happiness, so that one encourages the other.

Read the study:

Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion

Lara Aknin et al. also investigated under what circumstances giving money was most likely to increase happiness.

They performed 3 studies, where participants donated money to a charity or an individual under different circumstances. They concluded that people feel happier after giving more to charity, but only when they give to someone connected with the cause; and that the emotional rewards associated with giving to friends are greatest in situations that enable social connection.

Read the research:

Does Social Connection Turn Good Deeds into Good Feelings? On the Value of Putting the ‘Social’ in Prosocial Spending

Netta Weinstein and Richard M. Ryan from the University of Rochester conducted 4 studies, in which university students’ well-being was measured before and after students had both chosen to help other people or were specifically instructed to help other people. The results showed that participants felt greater well-being after helping others when their help was self-chosen rather than externally dictated.

Read the research:

Autonomous Motivation for Prosocial Behavior and its Influence on Well-Being for the Helper and Recipient

Keiko Otake et al. performed a study in which they asked participants to keep track of each and every act of kindness they performed on a daily basis. By becoming more aware of their own kind behaviour, participants generally reported that they felt happier due to counting their acts of kindness.

Read the research:

Happy People Become Happier Through Kindness: A Counting Kindnesses Intervention

If you don’t think you’ve got enough time to do good deeds, then think again. Cassie Mogilner, Zoë Chance, and Michael I. Norton, from the Harvard Business School and the Yale School of Management, conducted several experiments that showed that when we volunteer our time to help others, we actually feel like we have more time available.

They got different participants to either spend time on themselves, volunteer their time (e.g. write a letter to a sick child) or waste time (e.g. counting the number of letter Es in pages and pages of Latin words). Even though participants spent the same amount of time on these activities, spending time on others increased participants’ feelings of ‘time affluence’. We feel more efficient and therefore are less hurried and stressed.

Read about the study:

Giving Time Gives You Time

Footnote*

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text below relating to the article you wish to see into your browser top bar)

Kathryn E. Buchanana and Anat Bardi
Acts of Kindness and Acts of Novelty Affect Life Satisfaction
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/44797453_Acts_of_Kindness_and_Acts_of_Novelty_Affect_Life_Satisfaction

Myriam Mongrain, Jacqueline Chin and Leah Shapira
Practicing Compassion Increases Happiness and Self-Esteem
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225312710_Practicing_Compassion_Increases_Happiness_and_Self-Esteem

James Rilling and Gregory Berns
A Neural Basis for Social Cooperation
http://www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273%2802%2900755-9

Lara Aknin et al.
Prosocial Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Psychological Universal
http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/11-038.pdf

Sonja Lyubomirsky et al.
Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change
http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/wp-content/themes/sonjalyubomirsky/papers/LSS2005.pdf

Kristin Layous et al.
Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents
http://www.sonjalyubomirsky.com/files/2012/09/Layous-et-al.-in-press.pdf

Lara Aknin, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton
Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion
http://www.people.hbs.edu/mnorton/aknin%20dunn%20norton.pdf

Lara Aknin et al.
Does Social Connection Turn Good Deeds into Good Feelings? On the Value of Putting the ‘Social’ in Prosocial Spending
http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11148070

Keiko Otake et al.
Happy People Become Happier Through Kindness: A Counting Kindnesses Intervention
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1820947/

Cassie Mogilner, Zoë Chance, and Michael I. Norton
Giving Time Gives You Time
http://www.people.hbs.edu/mnorton/mogilner%20chance%20norton.pdf