UNYP Shows Helping Others Helps Us Too

Did you know that spending money on others can increase your well-being and happiness? The University of New York in Prague Psychology Department teamed up with DIS–a study abroad institute in Denmark–to investigate further. 

Research supports this theory. In one experiment (Dunn et al, 2008), participants were given a $5 or $20 bill and told either to spend it on others or to buy something for themselves. Those who spent the money on other people were happier than those who spent it on themselves. In another study (Aknin et al, 2013), participants in Canada and South Africa who were randomly assigned to buy items for charity reported higher levels of positive affect than participants assigned to buy the same items for themselves, even when this pro-social spending did not provide an opportunity to build or strengthen social ties. Pro-social spending seems to be  cross-cultural, psychological and universal. Human beings around the world derive emotional benefits from using their financial resources to help others. Survey data from 136 countries shows that pro-social spending is associated with greater happiness around the world, in poor and rich countries alike (Ahmad, 2016).

There is an evolutionary precedent for altruism and caring for others, even reflecting in our biological make-up, and it is witnessed across many species.  This encourages social cohesion and expands one’s personal support base as well.  Interestingly, the hormone oxytocin is often released when helping others, even when there is no obvious reward in sight. In this activity, organized by DIS–a study abroad institute in Denmark in cooperation with the Psychology Department at UNYP, the objectives were to apply the theory of altruism and well-being in an experiential intervention and explore the potential positive effects of pro-social spending. Students from different American universities as well as UNYP engaged in this activity. Students came up with creative ways of spending money on others in the local community to increase positive feelings both in the recipients and the doers of these “acts of kindness.” The activity concluded with participants sharing their experiences, while discussing the impact on self and others. 


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