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Giving really is better than receiving, new research confirms. That research found people in both rich and impoverished countries say they feel better about donating money to charity, spending money on others or giving to others than they do about buying something for themselves.
That simple finding, however, suggests that the positive feeling a person has after giving to another person may be a component of human nature.
"Our findings suggest that the psychological reward experienced from helping others may be deeply ingrained in human nature, emerging in diverse cultural and economic contexts," said lead author Lara Aknin of Simon Fraser University in Canada.
To prove this, Aknin and a team of researchers studied a poll of 234,917 people from 126 countries around the world. They found that respondents worldwide experienced feelings of well-being after giving to others. Those feelings were universal among people of different income levels and social structures and in countries with different levels of freedom and corruption.
Researchers say people are more likely to experience those gains in well-being because giving to others is more memorable than spending money on themselves. In all experiments, respondents more easily recalled times when they purchased something for someone else than times when they had bought something for themselves, the researchers found.
"From an evolutionary perspective, the emotional benefits that people experience when they help others acts to encourage generous behavior beneficial to long-term human survival," Aknin said.
The research was published in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.