You’re underestimating kindness

In an overwhelming world, small acts of kindness can seem insignificant. In a world where bad things happen every day, how much can a small action matter?

It turns out that the impact of a small act of kindness is much stronger than we think, both in terms of how it makes the recipient feel and their willingness to return that kindness. In a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, researchers conducted a series of experiments to test how meaningful some of these small acts of kindness are to the people who receive them, and how likely they are to pay that kindness. Forward.

The answer, as it turns out, is that our acts of kindness have a much greater impact on others than we think. Kindness, even when it seems small and unimportant, matters a lot.

People constantly underestimate the impact of their kindness.

In the first experiment, researchers recruited 84 people at a Chicago park and gave them the option of receiving a hot chocolate or giving it to a stranger. Seventy-five of them chose to give the hot chocolate to someone else. For people who received the hot chocolate as a gift, when asked how it made them feel, they reported a great feeling of warmth and happiness. For donors, when asked to rate how recipients would feel, they consistently underestimated the impact it would have.

“Those who perform an act of kindness may miss the fact that simply engaging in a warm and kind act can be meaningful to recipients beyond what they are giving them,” said Amit Kumar, an assistant professor of marketing and psychology. at the University of Texas at Austin, and one of the paper’s authors.

For the second experiment, the researchers tested whether receiving a cupcake as an act of kindness would make them feel happier than simply receiving a cupcake. People who received a cupcake as an act of kindness from another person reported feeling happier than if they had simply received one from the researchers.

“People again systematically underestimated how positive recipients would feel after a random act of kindness,” Kumar said. “People understand that people like cupcakes. We know that cupcakes are things that people like and that receiving a cupcake is positive, but a pattern suggests that the missing predictors are this extra warmth that comes from being the recipient of an act of kindness.”

People are more likely to repay kindness than we think

In the third experiment, the researchers tested whether being the recipient of an act of kindness would motivate people to pass it on. To do that, participants were given a $100 ($139) gift card and then asked to split it with another, but were given discretion over what that split was.

On average, people who received the gift card as an act of kindness were much more likely to split the $100 ($139) equally than people who simply received the gift card. “It turns out generosity can sometimes be contagious,” Kumar said. However, the people who engaged in the act of kindness once again underestimated the impact their actions would have on the actions of others.

“These miscalibrated expectations can be important for donors, because they create a misplaced psychological barrier to engaging in these actions more frequently in daily life,” Kumar said. “If you knew you were having an even more positive impact, you would be more likely to do this action, but if you think it will only have a small impact, you might be less likely to continue this behavior. ”

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