How generous are you?

by | Nov 19, 2014 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

I just read an article about which nations are the most generous. The researchers defined “generous” by asking individuals whether in the past month they had donated money to a cause, helped a stranger, and volunteered with an organization. If they said yes to all three, their score was 100% The two top countries were the U.S. and Myanmar at 91% average for the three questions. For more on the findings, see:

Reading the article made me think how I would have answered the questions. I would say yes to helping a stranger (e.g., I answered a request for questions likely to be asked at clinical admissions interviews) and yes to working for an organization (the Colorado Democratic party — I went door to door to get out the vote), and no for donating money (I usually donate just once a year, and this was not that time). My 67% score would drag down the average in the top countries.

How about you? How generous were you in the past month?

My motivation for donating time was to have a positive impact on people in the U.S. My motivation for helping strangers was to do my duty as a person responding to requests for assistance. When I donate money, my motivation is usually to help needy individuals such as the women in Africa who need surgery for birth-related tears (fistulas) that lead to incontinence and social rejection.

What are your motivations for generous behavior?

John Malouff, PhD, JD, Assoc Prof of Psychology


  1. My motivations for generous behavior are: Feeling like I share similar experiences with the recipient, a similar emotional history. I surprise myself lately by how generous I feel toward black youth raising money for music classes in front of a Sprouts whole foods store, and by; old black men and women in senior homes, stores, anywhere where they may look as alone, vulnerable, and abandoned as any white elderly person may look. But my empathy is tied to the black man’s expression of his experiences, because they validate parallel feelings and experiences for me that otherwise go unvalidated. I feel I’m validating myself when I don’t miss a beat to donate to black youth, or to hold the hand of a geriatric black person. And these people go out of their way to be understood, . .and due to people choosing not to want to understand them, they are blown off and ignored often. Aren’t we all moved to give time, energy, and money sometimes when a culture gives voice and animation to feelings and experiences that have been shut down and denied in you by, a domineering oppressive sister, an empty vessel of a mother, whatever, and resurrects the validity and truth of your own feelings.

  2. Hi Elizabeth. Those are good motivations!

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