We all like to think that we are generous people. But when it really comes down to it, how many of us would be willing to put our money where our mouth is?
It's an interesting concept, are we really as generous as we think we are? How many of us are truly generous people?
Generosity can be measured in many ways: how much time we give to others, how much money we give, and how we can help people in other ways.
Overall, generosity is how much of yourself you give to others, be that time, money or anything else. You go out of your way to help others and care for their needs. Let's look into this further and see how generous we really are.
What Does Science Say?
Let's start by looking at the science behind generosity. Acts of generosity are, in fact, proven to make us happier. A study from the University of Zurich showed that those who gave to others triggered a happier brain response as opposed to those who gave to themselves.
They were given a sum of money and one group chose to keep the money for themselves, while the other chose to give their money to others.
The study found that areas of the brain which are responsible for generosity and happiness had high levels of intensity in the participants who gave money to others. This result remained the same with higher and lower amounts of money given.
In fact, these neural responses stayed high even when the money was just promised to others! Helping others with even the smallest amount makes us happier people.
Maintaining generous habits could also make us happier in the long run. Another study on altruism has shown that older people who have lived a generous life have better health. It reduces stress levels and can even be as effective as lowering blood pressure!
So being generous doesn't only make you happier, it makes you healthier too.
How Generous Are We, Though?
Now that we know that it's scientifically proven that generosity makes us happier and healthier, how many of us are actually doing it? Interestingly, evidence shows that people who are richer are less generous when it comes to money.
A study from Queen Mary University of London has shown that people with 'high status' contribute less to group efforts than those with 'lower status'.
In their study, participants were asked to play games for real cash prizes. Some were given a 'lower status' and others were given a 'higher status', and these would signify the wealth of the participants.
In the games played, participants would decide how much money they would keep for themselves and how much they would donate to the group amount to be shared amongst participants.
It found that overall, those with lower status would contribute a higher amount to the group amount than those with higher wealth status, despite the fact they had less to give.
Furthermore, those who earned a higher status label due to sheer luck while playing would go on to put less in the group amount and keep more money for themselves.
A survey conducted by Wink Bingo has shown that those who play games for money and win an amount of £50 would be unlikely to use their earnings charitably.
33% said they would save the cash, 19% said they'd use it to buy something for themselves, and a mere 2% said they would donate the money to charity.
However, the results also show that those who have more money are more likely to give their winnings away, contradicting the first study.
When asked about what they would do if they won £500, participants said that 34% would use it to pay off debts, 32% would treat their loved ones to a nice meal, 29% would buy gifts for their loved ones, and 6% would donate it to charity.
Are Women More Generous Than Men?
When it comes down to gender, who is more generous? Research conducted by the University of Zurich has found that the female brain responds more positively to selfless acts and the male brain has a stronger response to self-serving acts.
The study included sharing money amongst participants of 56 men and women. Neuroscientists found that areas of the brain responded to reward signals very differently for each gender.
Women were naturally predisposed to having stronger reward signals for kind acts of giving more money away than men.
However, scientists then went on to give medication to prevent dopamine from being released and continued the experiment.
It found that when on this drug, women were actually more selfish with their money and the men were more generous with giving their money away.
However, in the Wink Bingo survey, 4% of the men who won £50 would be more likely to donate some of the money to charity, whereas only 1 in 255 women would donate some of theirs.
But when the money was increased to £5000, 4% more women than men said they would donate some of their winnings to charity.
Age plays a factor too, as another study has found that 84% of baby boomers and women who are older would be more likely to donate their money to charity as opposed to men of a similar age.
Overall, generosity is a very interesting and diverse thing. The amount of money we have plays a huge factor in how generous we are, and strangely enough, those with more money may be more likely to save their cash than give it away.
But it's not as clear-cut as that, gender and age have different attitudes towards generosity with money too. Perhaps we aren't all as generous as we like to think we are. But we can all make a conscious effort to be more giving.
After all, a small amount can make a big difference, and it does make us healthier after all!