Feeling Philanthropic?

Giving really is better than receiving

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The act of giving may be its own reward, but the benefits  don't end there. A recent study found that people who reflected on instances when they gave to others were more likely to be helpful, or give again.

Previous research has shown that both giving and receiving can increase happiness.

“Our results go further by revealing that reflecting on giving, rather than receiving, can also lead to greater helpfulness," the researchers said.

"Volunteer at your local charity."

Adam Grant, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania and Jane Dutton, PhD, of the University of Michigan conducted a study comparing the behavior of people who reflected on situations when they gave something to others and people who reflected on times they received something from others.

In the first experiment, the researchers tested 32 university fundraisers. The fundraisers were split into two groups – one group wrote several journal entries reflecting on the topic of giving, the other group reflected on the topic of receiving.

The researchers then monitored the fundraising calls made by each group for the next two weeks. They compared that with the number of fundraising phone calls made during the two weeks before the study.

The researchers found that the group of people who had reflected on their experiences in giving to others made 29 percent more fundraising phone calls than the other group.

A second phase of the study was conducted with 84 university students who were paid $5 for their responses.

The students were split into three groups; one group was asked to write about a time they gave to someone, another group was asked to write about a time they received something from someone, and the third group was a control group that wrote about food they had eaten.

Two weeks later, when the students received their $5, they were also asked if they would consider donating some of the money to a relief fund for a recent tsunami disaster. The students who had written about giving to others were twice as likely to donate than the other students.

Contributing expert LuAnn Pierce, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, was not surprised by the findings of the study.

"Generosity creates a sense of who we are - a person who cares about the well-being of others," she said. 

This research was published August 6 in Psychological Science and funded by the University of Michigan Interdisciplinary Committee on Organizational Studies grant and the Wharton Behavioral Lab. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 14, 2012
Last Updated:
August 27, 2012