Small acts of kindness can pay off — at least 50% of the time, a new study finds.
Random small acts of kindness, such as opening the door for someone, can cause them to pay it forward.
Researchers found that 50% of people would display gratitude if a person held open a door for them.
This went up to 84% if the door holder made eye contact and smiled.
Dr Glenn Fox, who led the study said:
“…small favours can have a sizeable influence on our behaviour, inspiring us to spend energy to help others and lending credence to the idea that we have a drive to ‘pay it forward’.”
For the research, experimenters held open the door for unsuspecting participants in different ways.
Sometimes they made eye contact and smiled, other times not.
Then, the experimenter accidentally-on-purpose dropped some pens to see if the recipient of the small favour would pay it forward.
Here’s an example of where the experimenter made eye contact and smiled:
Of all the unwitting participants in the study, 64% helped the experimenter pick up the pens when he made eye contact and smiled.
But the results showed that only 19% of people in the study picked up the pens when the experimenter just held the door open but didn’t look up.
Professor Antonio Damasio, one of the study’s authors, said:
“It is not only the recipient of the act or gift who gains; it is also the doer or giver.
When you are courteous to another person, or when you offer gifts, you are doing something that is good for you.
Interestingly, it can be rewarding for yourself, and it can reduce stress.
It can actually be good for your health.”
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Fox et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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