A significant number of people in the world give to charity, and that’s a good thing. If you’re part of that statistic, have you ever wondered why someone would donate a car to NY charities to shelter perfect strangers, or feed the hungry whom they’ve never met? Social psychologists have a theory behind this behavior, as described in an Eva’s Village article by Joanne Fagan:
- We help because we perceive the benefit of our actions as accruing to others. They called this “public benefit” because the public, or some section of it, benefits (e.g., the homeless population). However, we don’t perceive ourselves as gaining any benefit from helping others; we have altruistic as opposed to personal motives for helping.
- We help others because we see ourselves as benefiting in some way. Social psychologists call this “private benefit.”
To help others
To some degree, everyone is altruistic, which means we perceive our fellow human beings as good and worth helping, should they require it. It is this spirit that drives people to help one another. Whatever motivates people to help others is definitely welcome and need not be questioned.
To help ourselves
Subconsciously, though, we are also thinking of what we can gain when we give to charity. Though the gains may not be material, they still have a major impact on our sense of self-worth and even on our health. Multiple studies have concluded that people experience a particular high described as a “warm glow” after giving help to a person in need or donating to a worthy cause. This state of euphoria usually brings benefits such as reduced depression, relieved stress, and a better immune system, to name just a few.
The Golden Rule
To un-complicate things and put all of it into perspective, perhaps the best principle that we can live by is the Golden Rule which urges us to treat others the way we want to be treated. After all, if it feels good to give to someone whether through a car donation in NY or a feeding program in PA.
(Source: Why do You Really Give to Charity? Why Donate?, Eva’s Village)