A newly released study has found that generosity isn’t just beneficial to recipients of peoples’ kind gestures, as it apparently has some profound benefits for those who choose to give of themselves as well.
A press release announcing the results of the study — which is titled, “A Neural Link Between Generosity and Happiness,” and was published this month in the journal Nature Communications — summarizes the findings as follows: “Generosity makes people happier, even if they are only a little generous. People who act solely out of self-interest are less happy.”
And here’s the truly intriguing part: The mere promise or pledge of generosity is enough to make people happier. It’s a fascinating research endeavor, considering that the Bible is filled with scriptures urging and imploring people to give selflessly to others.
To conduct the analysis, Philippe Tobler and Ernst Fehr from the University of Zurich’s Department of Economics, among other researchers, took 50 participants and offered a sum of money to each to spend during a four-week period.
Twenty-five people in the control group were told to spend the money — 25 Swiss francs a week for four weeks — on themselves, while the 25 people in the experimental group were told to give the money to someone they knew, The Christian Post reported.
— Universität Zürich (@uzh_news) July 11, 2017
From there, researchers analyzed the brain activities of participants as they weighed who and how much money they planned to give — and the results were certainly intriguing.
“While the study participants were making these decisions, the researchers measured activity in three brain areas: in the temporoparietal junction, where prosocial behavior and generosity are processed; in the ventral striatum, which is associated with happiness; and in the orbitofrontal cortex, where we weigh the pros and cons during decision-making processes,” a press release announcing the results explains. “The participants were asked about their happiness before and after the experiment.”
Researchers found that those who acted out of generosity were happier than those who took more selfish actions with the money they had been given, though the level of generosity among those who gave didn’t make a difference in terms of the level of happiness.
It’s also important to note that the happier, giving people weren’t more content than their more selfish counterparts before the study unfolded; the change happened after they decided to embrace generosity.
And another element to revisit is the notion that merely thinking about being generous had a neural impact on the brain.
“It is remarkable that intent alone generates a neural change before the action is actually implemented,” Tobler said in a statement. “Promising to behave generously could be used as a strategy to reinforce the desired behavior, on the one hand, and to feel happier, on the other.”