The psychology of giving: 5 ways giving makes your life better

February 07, 2020
2 min read

Charitable Impact

Colourful illustrated leaves to demonstrate variety

We all know that giving to charity helps to improve the lives of the recipients. Using sound scientific techniques, Dr. Elizabeth Dunn and Ashley Whillans, researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC), 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 article in the New York Times 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 2012 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.