The generosity is not necessarily an intuitive choice, as any selfless act comes at a personal cost. When we do something for someone else, we typically give away some of our personal resources, such as time, energy, or money.
Still, people choose to act generously despite these costs, and that choice is probably explained by the motivation provided by the anticipation of the “warm glow.”
The correspondence between generous acts and increased levels of happiness is notable. Generosity results in that feeling of satisfaction when we perform a pleasant activity. The decision to give makes us happier.
Forty-eight people participated in this study, all of whom were allocated a sum of money on a weekly basis for 4 weeks. The participants were also randomly split into two equal groups.
One group constituted the experimental strand, and its members were assigned to perform acts of generosity toward others. They were asked to make a public pledge to be generous, thus ensuring their commitment to the idea. The other group was the control group, whose members were told to spend the money on themselves. All participants were asked to report their level of happiness both at the beginning and at the end of the experiment.
After making the public pledge, all the participants were asked to perform certain tasks were prompted to make choices related to generous behavior by deciding whether or not they would offer a gift of money to someone.
Each time, a cost to themselves was also specified alongside the total value of the gift. Both the value of the gift and the size of the cost varied.
It was found that participants in the experimental group were likelier to choose the gifts most beneficial to others that came at a larger cost to themselves – that is, they were more charitable and self-sacrificing than the participants in the control group.
It was also found that all participants who had performed, or had been willing to perform, an act of generosity – no matter how small – viewed themselves as happier at the end of the experiment.
“You don’t need to become a self-sacrificing martyr to feel happier. Just being a little more generous will suffice” says one of the professors performing the experiment.