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Indulging the Totally Selfish Joys of Selfless Giving

Here’s the science behind creating a chain reaction of goodnessThough economists and grumps have long argued to the contrary, many spiritual traditions teach us that, at our core, we are loving, generous, and kind. Recent research confirms this idea. Michael Tomasello and other scientists at the prestigious Max Planck Institute have found that even infants too young to have been conditioned by the conventions of politeness will automatically engage in helpful behavior. Research conducted by Dale Miller at the Stanford Business School shows that adults, too, are instinctively driven to help others. The difference between children and adults is that adults will often restrain themselves from this natural instinct because they are concerned with what others will think. We hesitate to follow our natural instinct to be loving, generous, and kind because we fear others will believe we are acting out of selfish motivation. And, of course, we may fear the same thing — that our natural drives to be helpful are secretly selfish — and so we hold back. Are we being selfish? Should we restrain ourselves?University o …

About the Author

Emma Seppala

Emma Seppälä, PhD, is author of The Happiness Track, founder of, and Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

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