Generosity

Generosity

[jen-uh-ros-i-tee]
Generosity is the habit of giving without coercion. Often equated with charity as a virtue, generosity is widely accepted in society as a desirable habit.

In times of natural disaster, relief efforts are frequently provided, voluntarily, by individuals or groups acting unilaterally in making gifts of time, resources, goods, money, etc.

Generosity is a guiding principle for many registered charities, foundations and non-profit organizations.

Generosity can also be spending time, money, or labour, for others, without being rewarded in return.

Although the term generosity often goes hand-in-hand with charity, many people in the public's eye want recognition for their good deeds. Donations are needed to support organizations and committees, however, generosity should not be limited to times of great need such as natural disasters and extreme situations.

Generosity is not solely based on one's economic status, but instead, includes the individual's pure intentions of looking out for society's common good and giving from the heart.Generosity should reflect the individual's passion to help others.

A common example of true generosity are many non-profit organizations. These organizations, whether small or large, provide free tools, supplies, and endure hours of work to improve conditions and give to less fortunate people.

Recent neuroscientific research has shown that generosity is primarily associated with empathy, rather than with cognitive mechanisms. In this research, by Paul J. Zak and colleagues and published in Public Library of Science ONE, the peptide oxytocin or placebo was given to about 100 men and then they made several decisions regarding money. One, the Dictator Game, was used to measure altruism by asking people to make a unilateral transfer of $10 they were given by the experimenters to a stranger in the lab; oxytocin had no effect on altruism.

Another task, the Ultimatum Game was used to measure generosity. In this game, one person was endowed with $10 and was asked to offer some split of it to another person in the lab, all done by computer. If the second person did not like the split, he could reject it (for example, if it was stingy) and both people would get zero. In a clever twist, the researchers told participants they would be randomly chosen to be either the person making the offer or the person responding to it. This required the person making the offer to take the other's perspective explicitly. Generosity was defined as an offer greater than the minimum amount needed for acceptance. Oxytocin increased generosity 80% compared to those on placebo. In addition, oxytocin was quantitatively twice as important in predicting generosity as was altruism.

Zak and colleagues argue that oxytocin is a physiologic signature for empathy, and that this research shows that much of generosity is driven by empathy or more generally, by emotions.

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