New Study: Helping Others Is Innate to Human Beings - And Why is Giving Better than Receiving

By Helen Holmes on September 26, 2012

Our high regard to survival is perhaps one of the reasons why we, human beings, tend to be selfish, dominating and power-seeking. But despite these negative qualities, we also have a deep sense of collaboration, which is innate – a new study reveals.

Researchers from the Harvard University suggest that people are inclined to be helpful and cooperative, especially at times of stress. That is, when people are given very short time to decide and think things over, they are more likely to give. On the other hand, if they are given more time to contemplate on a generous act, they tend become selfish.

People are inclined to help others

On their study, Rand and his team recruited nearly 2,000 participants from around the world and paid each one 50 cents to perform an online game. They were divided into groups of four. The game, called “public goods game”, involved making donations for a community project. All of the contributions will be doubled and divided equally among the group members. So if everyone gives all of their money, they will have better group outcome. However, on the individual’s perspective, every cent they donate will be doubled and divided into four, which only gives them 50 cents in return of every dollar contributed. Meanwhile, others may just take a free ride off the contributions of other players. The challenge is whether to give for the benefit of the group, or not to give for individual benefit.

Some test groups were only given a very short time to decide whether to donate or not, while others had enough time. Based on the results, those who decided promptly in 10 seconds or less contributed more (63%) than those who were given ample of time to think over (53%).

While their findings reveal that humans are innately helpful and cooperative, more studies must be done to prove this claim. The report was published in the journal Nature.

The more you give, the more you receive

Nonetheless, what we can be sure of is that giving brings us more happiness and sense of fulfilment than simply receiving. Several studies have been done to determine the health benefits of generosity. In the research conducted by University of British Columbia, it was found that children were happier giving than receiving.

In another study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, it was found that volunteer works per week reduced mortality rate by 40 percent. Because it is a randomised controlled trial, there was no way to find out how exactly it helps lengthen life but the researchers believe that serving others can be good for one’s physical and mental health.

According to Thomas G. Plante, professor of psychology, and director of the Spirituality and Health Institute at Santa Clara University and adjunct clinical professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, connecting with others in need can be a great way to improve resilience and stress management. Additionally, people will experience more empathy, compassion, and solidarity with others.


Source of this article:

Spontaneous giving and calculated greed, Nature


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