We hear the phrase “it’s better to give than to receive” a lot, around the holidays. According to the Association for Psychological Science, it really is TRUE.
Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago teamed up to see what’s better -the joy of giving gifts, or the joy of getting them. GIVING is the clear winner.
They gave 100 people $5 a day for five days in a row. Each person could either keep the money, or give it away. But they had to do the same thing with it all five days. And if they gave it away, they had to give it to the same person every day.
On the first day, both groups reported similar levels of happiness. But after that, the amount of happiness people got from keeping the money started to drop dramatically.
The level of joy people got from keeping $5 on Day Five was much lower than it was on Day One. But meanwhile, the group that gave the money away continued to derive the SAME amount of pleasure from it, regardless of how many times they did it.
So why was that the case? One theory is that when we receive a gift, we tend to focus on WHAT we’re getting. And we subconsciously compare it to stuff we’ve gotten in the past. In other words, getting $5 after you already got $5 is somewhat boring.
But when we give, we’re a lot LESS focused on what we’re giving, and more focused on the joy that comes from the act itself.