In spite of all the negative news we see and hear every day, there are still people engaged in selfless acts of kindness. It seems to be a part of who we are, so much so, that some theorize humans have actually evolved to find generosity rewarding. A University of British Columbia study revealed that toddlers under the age of two were happier giving away their own treats rather than receiving them. The study was published in the journal PLoS One.
UBC Professors Lara B. Aknin, J. Kiley Hamlin, & Elizabeth W. Dunn co-authored the study. In the study, children interacted with a puppet. They were given treats and none were given to the puppet. The toddlers seemed more than happy to share their own treats with the puppet. Even more intriguing was the fact that they seemed happier to give their own treats than giving the puppet treats that were “found” in the room. This brought Dr. Aknin to the conclusion that “costly giving” made the children happier.
“People tend to assume that toddlers are naturally selfish…These findings show that children are actually happier giving than receiving.”
The study involved 23 toddlers. Each session was videoed and the toddler’s reactions were rated on a happiness scale between 1 and 7 throughout the various phases of the session. In the video below, you can see a clear example of how a toddler’s reaction was much stronger when she shared her own treats.
“What’s most exciting about these findings is that children are happiest when giving their own treats away,” said Aknin, lead author of the study. “Forfeiting their own valuable resources for the benefit of others makes them happier than giving away just any treat.
This study sheds light on the motivations that people have to give. While social pressures and teachings may influence giving, this study shows that giving can also be an intrinsically rewarding experience, especially when the giving comes at a personal cost.