Hi, I’m Paul Krismer your happiness expert.
This week we’re gonna talk about how money changes the way we feel. At least in part we’re going to talk about that. Now these researchers who happen to be economists wanted to allow people to spend a little bit of money and see how it made them feel, so they surveyed them for their levels of personal happiness, gave these people (young students on campus) 20 bucks. And they said go spend 20 bucks on yourself and then come back. When the students came back they surveyed them for their levels of personal happiness. Sure enough, as expected the students were happier. Yay! A different group of randomly selected students: they surveyed them for their happiness gave them 20 bucks, but this time they said go and spend the money on someone else who has no ability to repay you. So they’d wander off onto campus find some stranger and do something that cost around 20 bucks for that person. And when they came back to the researchers, they were surveyed for their personal happiness. They weren’t a little bit happier, they were a lot happier! Well what the heck is going on with that?
It’s insane, these kids should have been happier spending money on themselves than for some perfect stranger but that’s not the case. So why is it that these kids were happier spending money on others than on themselves? The researchers were curious. They thought it was irrational for that to happen, and so they thought maybe if they gave the kids a thousand dollars to spend on themselves they would have been really really happy. If they had spent $1,000 on a complete stranger they’d be miserable. Now nobody was gonna give these guys that much money for an experiment, so they partnered with some universities in very poor countries. India and Nigeria. This time with the same $20 they knew that the $20 went so much further. So in Nigeria, for example it’d feed a family of four for a week! It was a lot of money. So same thing: survey for happiness, give them 20 bucks, have them spend it on themselves. Survey again and the people were happier as predicted but bizarrely spending 20 bucks on a total stranger in Nigeria made people a lot happier! Well what’s going on with all of this!!!
Something innate in them made them want to help these perfect strangers. Why would they do it? Again it’s irrational. They get no advantage to helping this person. The truth is we really don’t know why all we know for sure is that altruistic behaviors make us feel good. And the best we can come up with is that there’s an evolutionary purpose that when we behave selflessly and give to others without necessarily any expectation of return, evolution found that there was a reason to reward us for that behavior. It’s likely that is tribal people we needed to be able to help one another. One day after another. Giving generously and if I helped you today you’d help me tomorrow and we’d all help somebody else on the third day. This behavior of what goes around comes around was obviously helpful for survival. Evolution taught us to do it by making us feel good in the moment. So we don’t know exactly why but that’s the theory. We know for a fact that altruistic behaviors make us feel good. So if you want to be happy go be nice to other people. That’s all there is to it. Go be nice.
I’m Paul Krismer, your happiness expert.