Washington: The joy of giving never gets old, say scientists who found that happiness derived from repeatedly bestowing gifts on others lasts longer. The happiness we feel after a particular event or activity diminishes each time we experience that event, a phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation. However, giving to others may be the exception to this rule, according to a research published in the journal Psychological Science.
In two studies, researchers of University of Chicago and Northwestern University in the US found that participants’ happiness did not decline, or declined much slower, if they repeatedly bestowed gifts on others versus repeatedly receiving those same gifts themselves.“If you want to sustain happiness over time, past research tells us that we need to take a break from what we are currently consuming and experience something new,” said Ed O’Brien, from University of Chicago.
Our research reveals that the kind of thing may matter more than assumed: Repeated giving, even in identical ways to identical others, may continue to feel relatively fresh and relatively pleasurable the more that we do it,” he said. In one experiment, university student participants received USD 5 every day for 5 days; they were required to spend the money on the exact same thing each time.
The researchers randomly assigned participants to spend the money either on themselves or on someone else, such as by leaving money in a tip jar at the same cafe or making an online donation to the same charity every day. The participants reflected on their spending experience and overall happiness at the end of each day. The data, from a total of 96 participants, showed a clear pattern: Participants started off with similar levels of self-reported happiness and those who spent money on themselves reported a steady decline in happiness over the 5-day period.
However, happiness did not seem to fade for those who gave their money to someone else. The joy from giving for the fifth time in a row was just as strong as it was at the start. Researchers then conducted a second experiment online, which allowed them to keep the tasks consistent across participants.In this experiment, 502 participants played 10 rounds of a word puzzle game. They won USD 0.05 per round, which they either kept or donated to a charity of their choice. After each round, participants disclosed the degree to which winning made them feel happy, elated, and joyful.