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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e39211. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039211. Epub 2012 Jun 14.

Giving leads to happiness in young children.

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Psychology Department, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Evolutionary models of cooperation require proximate mechanisms that sustain prosociality despite inherent costs to individuals. The "warm glow" that often follows prosocial acts could provide one such mechanism; if so, these emotional benefits may be observable very early in development. Consistent with this hypothesis, the present study finds that before the age of two, toddlers exhibit greater happiness when giving treats to others than receiving treats themselves. Further, children are happier after engaging in costly giving--forfeiting their own resources--than when giving the same treat at no cost. By documenting the emotionally rewarding properties of costly prosocial behavior among toddlers, this research provides initial support for the claim that experiencing positive emotions when giving to others is a proximate mechanism for human cooperation.

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