We all know that it is better to give than to receive. But ‘Chocolate, Sex and Money’ better?
That is the surprising result of a study done at UCLA that looked at the effects of social support on the giver. I’ll spare you the details (painful electric shocks) but it turns out that the person providing support felt powefully rewarded on a very basic level.
This is surprising because you would expect the person receiving help would appreciate the attention. Taking care of someone is supposed to be a burden though, right? Well, sometimes I’m sure it is, but we’ve all experienced a deep desire to care for those we love. This study just confirms what you might have already expected.
What might be unexpected is how primal the reward is. The psychologists running the study used brain imaging techniques to look at where the reward how the helping was experienced by the givers. They felt rewarded in the deep, primal parts of the brain that register rewards like (their words) “Chocolate, sex and money”.
Not something that the test subjects had to talk themselves into, in other words.
What’s this got to do with gifts?
Gifts are a form of help and a form of social support. The attention paid in selecting and giving a gift is what giftees appreciate most about receiving a gift so I don’t think that it is too much of a stretch to compare giving to a form of social support like what was studied in the article I mentioned.
It’s easy to ignore that aspect of giving gifts as adults in America. It’s easier to give a gift card to your brother or just telephone your parents for their birthdays (I know, that’s what I do by default).
Taking the effort your giving to a deeply connected and social act will pay dividends that are not obvious at first. The giving, after all, doesn’t have to be difficult and as I said it doesn’t have to be expensive either.
What it does have to be, though, is considerate.
Do It Because You Are Worth It
It’s more work to give gifts like this, of course, I admit. But it’s worth it. You can think about how giving gifts will bring you closer to the giftee and generally make people like you (no link for that one, hopefully you don’t need convincing that giving gifts is seen as a nice thing to do). You can think about what you think you should do or what you would like to do.
But is that what gives parents such joy when they give gifts to their children. What makes giving gifts in a relationship so important and fulfilling? Why should we bother?
Chocolate, sex and money.