If it is indeed nobler to give than to receive, it may also make you happier - even if you're a toddler, according to a new study co-authored by three psychologists at the University of British Columbia.
The study, published in PLoS One, an on-line journal from the Public Library of Science, finds that toddlers under the age of two are happier when giving treats to others than receiving treats themselves. Furthermore, children are happier when they give their own treats away than when they give an identical treat that doesn't belong to them.
These findings support recent research showing that adults feel good when they help others and may help explain why people act pro-socially, even when doing so involves personal cost. This is the first study to show that giving to others makes young children happy.
NB Editors: Watch a video from the study, featuring one toddler participating with a puppet, at: http://cic.psych.ubc.ca/Example_Stimuli.html See the study at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0039211
"People tend to assume that toddlers are naturally selfish," said Dr. Lara Aknin, who co-authored the study with UBC colleagues Profs. Kiley Hamlin and Elizabeth Dunn. "These findings show that children are actually happier giving than receiving."
During the study, each toddler received some treats, such as Goldfish crackers. A few minutes later, the toddler was asked to give one of these treats away to a puppet. In addition, the experimenter provided an extra treat and asked the child to give this to the puppet. The children's reactions were videotaped and later rated for happiness on a seven-point scale.