In an overwhelming world, small acts of kindness might seem to make little sense. In a world where bad things happen every day, how important is a small act anyway?
As it turns out, the effect of a small act of kindness is much more powerful than we realize, both in terms of the way the recipient feels, and in terms of their willingness to push that kindness forward. in recent study Published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, the researchers conducted a series of experiments To test how important some of these small acts of kindness are to the people who receive them, and how likely they are to push that kindness forward.
The answer, it turns out, is that our good deeds have a much greater impact on others than we realize. Kindness, even when it seems small and insignificant, is very important.
People constantly underestimate the impact of their kindness
In the first experiment, researchers recruited 84 people in a park in Chicago, and gave them the choice of either receiving hot chocolate or gifting that hot chocolate to a stranger. Seventy-five Some of them chose to serve hot chocolate to another. For people who received hot chocolate as a gift, when asked how they felt, they reported a heightened sense of warmth and happiness. For donors, when asked to rate how recipients might feel, they consistently underestimated the impact.
“Pleasant performers can miss the fact that simply engaging in a kind and warm act can be more meaningful to recipients than what they give them,” Amit KumarD., 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 if they simply received a cupcake. People who received a cupcake as a good deed from someone else reported feeling happier than if they had simply received one from the seeker.
“People systematically underestimated recipients’ positive feelings after a random act of kindness,” Kumar said. “People understand that people like cupcakes. We know that cupcakes are things that people like, and having a cupcake is a positive thing, but there is a pattern that what predictors are missing is that extra warmth that comes from being on the receiving end of a kind act.”
People are more likely to push kindness forward than we realize
In the third experiment, the researchers tested whether being on the receiving end of an act of kindness would motivate people to pass it on. To do this, participants were given a $100 gift card Then he asked to divide it into another, but give an estimate of what that division was.
On average, people who received the gift card as an act of kindness were more likely to pay that kindness forward by splitting the $100 evenly, unlike people who simply received the gift card. “It turns out that generosity can be contagious at times,” Kumar said. However, people who participated in the act of kindness again underestimated the impact of their actions on the actions of others.
“These false expectations, can be of interest to donors, as they create a misplaced psychological barrier to engaging in these actions more often in daily life,” Kumar said. “If you know you are having a more positive effect, you are more likely to take the action, but if you think it will have only a small effect, you are probably less likely to follow this behavior.”