Giving…from the Heart

or perhaps…Brain?

Note: if you are an individual who is connected 24/7 to the world via every means of social media and all the traditional forms then the information in this post has probably already come to your attention. Why? Because it’s old, but I don’t care, I’m going to post it anyway, I think it is fascinating!

Today I received my print copy of The Dana Foundation’s BRAIN in the News, a publication I look forward to receiving monthly. It was the January issue and one of the lead stories was about generosity which had been reported by USA Today on December 1, 2010.

We’ve all either heard, or uttered ‘from the heart’ at sometime in our nonprofit careers.  So, the question is: what makes one individual generously ‘give from the heart’ and another not?

In Unraveling the Mystery of Why We Give, or Don’t Judy Keen reported from South Bend that the University of Notre Dame is leading a new research initiative which will merge economic, sociological, neurological and psychological studies to explain why some people give and some don’t.  Despite years of study already completed philanthropists, scientists, academics and researchers still are uncertain as to the reasons for human giving.

A $5 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation created the Science of Generosity Initiative at Notre Dame University, where research has been underway since 2009.  Currently there are 14 funded research projects listed.

Here are samples of what researchers are studying:

  • A social psychology professor at the University of Kansas is trying to discover if “attachment security” is the cause of generosity
  • An associate professor of preventive medicine at State University of New York-Stony Brook is exploring the links between altruism and brain circuits that support maternal feelings

Even researchers not part of the Notre Dame project are investigating theories of generosity. An interesting example given in Ms. Keen’s article is of Paul Zak, founder of Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Neuroeconomics Studies. After studying oxytocin’s ability to amplify feelings of trust Zak tried an experiment to determine if the hormone would also affect generosity. The results were amazing – oxytocin increased generosity by 80%!

If you are interested in reading more on generosity and related subjects from scholars around the world you can find them at the Science of Generosity Literature reviews online library.

“If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.” Bob Hope

Posted by Marilynn

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