The Psychology of Giving: 5 Ways Giving Makes Your Life Better

Charity Matters | October 17, 2016

Chimp presents the Psychology of Giving from Chimp on Vimeo.

We all know that giving to charity helps to improve the lives of the recipients. But what does it do for the donor? At a recent lunch-and-learn, Chimp staff learned how giving can boost your health and happiness from Dr. Elizabeth Dunn and Ashley Whillans, UBC researchers who study the psychology of giving. Using sound scientific techniques, Dunn and Whillans have been able to demonstrate that giving has a whole host of benefits for donors. Here is a look at just a few of their studies:

We evolved to give

One study found that young children experience satisfaction from prosocial behaviour such as giving. The presence of these responses supports Dunn and Whillans’ hypothesis that giving and sharing behaviours have evolved in humans, likely due to the benefits of human cooperation.


Giving can make you happier

A similar study found that people who spent as little as $5 on someone else over the course of a day were happier at the end of that day compared with people who were asked to spend $5 on themselves. That’s a pretty small price to pay to feel good by dinnertime.

A donation a day keeps the doctor away

Dunn and Whillans published this New York Times article detailing their research into potential health effects from giving. They found that people assigned to spend money in generous ways experience a significant reduction in blood pressure.

Knowing is half the battle

Happiness as a result of giving works best if the donor knows that the recipient’s life is being improved, according to this 2013 study. Participants reported greater happiness when receiving information about how their donation would be used. So do your research.

It’s just good business

Finally, this study by Dr. Dunn found that providing employees with motive, and choice, to spend on others improves productivity, teamwork, engagement, and job satisfaction. If you’re the boss, that’s great for your business. If you’re the employee, that’s great for your stress levels.

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