The emotional dividend of giving...

Are you the sort of person who likes to give gifts? Do you feel joy when you see them being unwrapped? Is there a warm buzz when the recipient shows their gratitude with smiles, hugs and kisses? If so, have you ever asked why? Wouldn’t it make more sense if we got more joy from receiving a gift rather than giving it?

There is a common perception that humans are fundamentally selfish. However, evidence suggests that we actually go to great lengths to ensure the well-being of those around us. Ultimately, we are social animals and look to live in harmony with those we love and care about.


Of course, thousands of people already give to charities where they believe in the cause but could there be just a little more to it than that?


The economist, James Andrioni coined the term “warm-glow giving”, which means that a person feels subconsciously positive emotions when doing good. Not only to the givers receive a positive emotional benefit from seeing what their giving can achieve but also an inner contentment from the act of giving itself.


Further research shows that the reward centres of the brain are “hard-wired” to activate in response to charitable giving and helping others, suggesting real physiological evidence for the warm-glow phenomenon.


Altruism - is it encoded in us or can we learn it?


John A. List and Anya S. Samek, investigators at the University of Chicago’s Science of Philanthropy Initiative (SPI), found that altruism seems to be innate in children. Under a study where toddlers doled out marshmallows and cotton balls both to other children and to puppets, the researchers determined that altruism was the central motivator. 

 “When you’re little, it hasn’t been ingrained that you should do for others to feel good,” says List. “But over time, that innate altruism fades, and the warm glow takes over.”


 Research findings suggest that we are physically prone to be altruistic and it is not something we learn but which lurks within us so prompting us to carry out selfless acts of kindness.


In fact, giving triggers the reward centre in our brain and this is why most people enjoy giving rather than receiving a gift.


“As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.” ― Mary Anne Radmacher 


So next time you give a gift or donate your time or money to charity think about how it makes you feel and if you can detect that warm glow.

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