Givers are Happier than Receivers

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Charitable giving is beneficial to those on the receiving end of a gift, but can charitable giving also benefit the giver?

You have likely been told that giving is better than receiving since you were a child. Before it was a parent or other concerned adult teaching you the virtue of kindness and selflessness, but now there is science to back it up. A series of recent studies have all indicated that altruism provides a fantastic benefit, for the giver. It turns out that altruism actually gives a lot to the giver, in addition to the receiver.

Behavioral economists in Canada recently published a study in which they gave toddlers delicious Goldfish cheese crackers and asked them to share their treat with a stuffed monkey puppet. A separate third party of adult subjects was called in to view the baby’s faces before and after they shared their crackers to determine the child’s mood. The results overwhelmingly showed that the children were much happier and smiling after sharing their crackers versus eating them all.

One of the most interesting parts of this study is that the results did not produce much of a bell curve, as a lot of similar data tends to do. Instead, researchers found that the overwhelming majority of toddler subjects were perceptively happier when acting in an altruistic manner.

Another study conducted in Canada asked randomly assigned people to spend $5 or $20 on another person, and asked the control group to spend the money on themselves. (The money was provided by the study to the subjects). At the end of the day, the people who spent the small amount on another person through charitable giving were happier than those that were assigned to spend the same amount on themselves.

The same researchers conducted this study in Uganda and South Africa after running it in Canada, and they pulled in correlational data from nations around the world. The results show that in both poor and rich countries, spending money on another person makes the giver happier than spending that amount on themselves.

American neurologists have looked at brain scans of the amygdala, which is a part of the mammalian brain and also the part of the brain responsible for social processes like caring for others and love. This study looked at the amygdala of altruistic people that have donated a kidney and found that their amygdala are 8 percent larger than the control group. On the other end of the altruism spectrum are psychopaths, who do not care for other’s feelings at all. In a separate study, findings showed that psychopaths have an amygdala that is 17 percent to 18 percent smaller than the control group.

No matter how you slice it, it feels good to give, so find ways you can use your business as a channel of altruism to do some good (like by working with a payment processor that donates time and resources to charitable causes).

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