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Giving gifts or our time to others is good for us

An article in today?s New York Times talks about why giving gifts, and other non material things, is an important part of human interaction. The article draws on research from psychology to show that the act of giving is good for our own selves, as well as for others.

Psychologists have found that it is the giver, rather than the receiver, who reaps the biggest psychological gains from this act.  There is no doubt that spending has increased and that there is too much focus on material goods. However, to suggest that people shouldn?t buy any presents during the festive period may not be good advice.  The article suggests that people who do not give gifts may be missing out on an important connection to others.  Ellen Langer, Harvard Psychology Professor, say?s that ?if you don?t let me give you a gift, then I?m not encouraging you to think about me and think about the things I like.  I am preventing you from experiencing the joy of engaging in all those activities. You do a disservice by not giving them the gift of giving? This applies to non material acts of giving too such as giving time to others, support, encouragement and so on.  These acts are beneficial for ourselves as it makes us feel ?effective and caring?

Recent research, at Virginia Commonwealth University, has studied gift giving by pet owners.  This research is interesting because people who own pets and give them things to make them ?happy? do so without the pressure of reciprocity.  They enjoy giving for the sake of it.  This is unlike human interaction where there is a clear pressure for reciprocity.  This study can pick out the fundamental need that humans have to give. To read this article click here

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