How Awe Makes Us Generous

They can awaken a deep appreciation for the world around us and inspire a profound sense of awe. This sensation is often accompanied by an awareness of something larger than ourselves… that we play a small part in an intricate cosmic dance that is life.

But is that experience strictly personal? New research from UC Berkeley and UC Irvine suggests that experiencing awe can actually prompt us to act more benevolently toward others. In other words, awe can help make the world a better place.

“For hundreds of years, people have talked about the importance of awe to human life and interpersonal relations,” says Paul Piff, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. “And just now we are beginning to devise tools for testing it and understanding it.”

Piff and his team conducted a series of experiments to investigate the types of experiences that inspire awe, how awe facilitates positive behavior towards others, and how these effects are distinct from those of other pro-social emotions.

In the first study, participants were asked to rate the frequency that they generally feel awe, and then completed a test that measured generous behavior. Results showed that those who experience more awe tend to behave more generously, even after accounting for other positive emotions like compassion or love. 

Kansas Waiter Sporting a New Smile After Kind Stranger Leaves a Generous Tip

One of the biggest smiles to pass through Doo-Dah’s doors is Brian Maixner’s. Maixner is a waiter at the diner, and one of the most recent recipients of the restaurant’s giving atmosphere.

Since childhood, the kind and talkative waiter has been plagued with dental issues. Working to earn the money for dental insurance, Maixner was still missing several teeth and suffering from painful mouth infections when Fred Boettcher sat in Maixner’s section on a busy weekend morning.

During his meal, Boettcher, an attorney from Oklahoma, asked to see the owner. He approached Shibley saying that his server had been fantastic, but that he noticed the man had some dental issues.

Boettcher, who had suffered from dental problems himself as a kid, asked Shibley if he could pay to give Maixner a full dental makeover. The attorney said he had been very blessed in life, and that this is something he liked to do for others.

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Giving and Receiving

To say that it is better to give than to receive is like describing a coin by saying that heads are better than tails. Giving and receiving are two sides of the same event. It is better to be aware of both sides. Don’t just put the heads of your coins in the vending machine.

The merits of giving and receiving come in generosity and gratitude. If you can adopt an attitude of generosity as you give and an attitude of gratitude as you receive, then each exchange will generate happiness. To use mindfulness in you daily exchanges, notice the giving and receiving that you do and remember the generosity and gratitude that is available to you in each moment.

You can’t determine which is better between feeling generous and feeling grateful. When you feel generous you give from a place of abundance and offer happiness and wellbeing to others. That always feels great. If it doesn’t feel good, then it is not generosity. When you feel grateful, you acknowledge your good fortune and connect with the abundance that is available to you. In generosity and gratitude, abundance can be anything. It can be food, money, art, beauty, warmth, attention, kindness or love. Like giving and receiving, generosity and gratitude are a single feeling. You can receive with a sense of generosity and give with a sense of gratitude. However you approach it, these attitudes make you feel good and generate happiness.

To practice mindfulness, you can be generous and grateful with every breath. As you breath in, you can be grateful for life and air to breathe. As you breath out, you can offer peace to the world. If you are talking to somebody, you can speak with generosity and offer your kindness and wisdom to others. When you listen, you can quiet your mind and be grateful for somebody to talk to.

As you begin your practice, it’s okay to think that you’re being generous and grateful. It’s okay to remind yourself over and over again to notice how you give and receive. It’s okay to forget that you are breathing and take air for granted. When you create a habit of remembering, you might forget yourself, but still feel generous, grateful and happy.

Texas doctor offers the home invaders who robbed him a free college education

A Texas doctor who had a gun pointed at his head when robbers broke into his upscale home and stole cash, jewelry and weapons is offering the culprits a free college education if they turn themselves in to police.

Dr. Victor Ho told “Fox & Friends” Sunday that education enriched his life and could better the lives of the two men who terrorized him and his housekeeper during an Oct. 17 home invasion in Bunker Hill Village, a posh enclave near Houston.

Read more and see video

-This guy sounds so polite in the video interview too.  He even refers to one of the robbers as a “masked gentleman.”

Neuroscientists identify brain mechanisms that predict generosity in children

University of Chicago developmental neuroscientists have found specific brain markers that predict generosity in children. Those neural markers appear to be linked to both social and moral evaluation processes.

There are many sorts of prosocial behaviors. Although young children are natural helpers, their perspective on sharing resources tends to be selfish. Jean Decety, the Irving B. Harris Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, and Jason Cowell, a postdoctoral scholar in Decety’s Child NeuroSuite lab, wanted to find out how young children’s brains evaluate whether to share something with others out of generosity. In this study, generosity was used as a proxy for moral behavior. The paper is published online by Current Biology and will appear in the Jan. 5, 2015 issue.

“We know that generosity in children increases as they get older,” said Decety. He added that neuroscientists have not yet examined the mechanisms that guide the increase in generosity. “The results of this study demonstrate that children exhibit both distinct early automatic and later more controlled patterns of neural responses when viewing scenarios showing helping and harmful behaviors. It’s that later more controlled neural response that is predictive of generosity.”

The study included recording brain waves by EEG and eye tracking of 57 children, ages three to five, while they viewed short animations depicting prosocial and antisocial behaviors of cartoon-like characters helping or hurting each other. Following that testing, the children played a modified version of a scenario called the “dictator game.” The children were given ten stickers and were told that the stickers were theirs to keep. They were then asked if they wanted to share any of their stickers with an anonymous child who was to come to the lab later that day.

The children had two boxes, one for themselves and one for the anonymous child. In an effort to prevent bias, the experimenter turned around while the child decided whether or how much to share. On average, the children shared fewer than two stickers (1.78 out of 10) with the anonymous child. There was no significant difference in sharing behavior by gender or age. The authors also found that the nature of the animations the children watched at the outset could influence the children’s likelihood of behaving in a generous way.

The study shows how young children’s brains process moral situations presented in these scenarios and the direct link to actual prosocial behavior in the act of generosity by sharing the stickers. “The results shed light on the theory of moral development by documenting the respective contribution of automatic and cognitive neural processes underpinning moral behavior in children,” Decety concluded in the paper.

The developmental scientists found evidence from the EEG that the children exhibited early automatic responses to morally laden stimuli (the scenarios) and then reappraised the same stimuli in a more controlled manner, building to produce implicit moral evaluations.

“This is the first neuro-developmental study of moral sensitivity that directly links implicit moral evaluations and actual moral behavior, and identifies the specific neuro markers of each,” said Decety. “These findings provide an interesting idea that by encouraging children to reflect upon the moral behavior of others, we may be able to foster sharing and generosity in them.” Decety added that these findings show that, contrary to several predominant theories of morality, while gut reactions to the behavior of others do exist, they are not associated with one’s own moral behavior, as in how generous the children were with their stickers.

Decety and Cowell are now conducting similar work with even younger children, ages 12 to 24 months, to look at when these neural markers for generosity emerge.

Maggie Banks, as an assistant choreographer, recalled that the wife of a company electrician was seriously ill: “I saw Marilyn hand the man a roll of bills; he started to cry, and Marilyn just hugged him and walked away.” Likewise, Evelyn Moriarty never forgot that Marilyn anonymously donated one thousand dollars to defray the funeral expenses of a crewmember’s wife. Such acts of generosity she accomplished spontaneously and with no thought of anyone but the recipient.