Rewards of Helping: Helping Others to Help Oneself

The discussion thus far has focused on how helping may have evolved. We turn now to focus on helping in a contemporary context. Helping others can, of course, be costly. It can also be rewarding—psychologically, physically, and materially. We all like the idea of being the hero, lifted onto the shoulders of our peers for coming to the rescue of someone in distress. In this section we discuss some of the rewards—and costs—of helping.

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Feeling Good Imagine someone hands you $20 and gives you one rule: You have to spend it on yourself by the end of the day. Sweet, right? OK, imagine instead that your instruction is that you have to spend it on someone else. Nice, but not quite as sweet a deal for you, right? When Elizabeth Dunn and colleagues asked people which would make them hap- pier, most people said they’d be happier spending the money on themselves. But in a clever set of studies, the researchers actually gave people money with one of those two sets of instructions, and they found that people who spent the money on others were signifi- cantly happier than those who purchased something for themselves. This held true across a wide variety of age-groups and cultures, even in places in which resources were very limited.

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