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Whenever you give, does this bring you joy or dissatisfaction? We look for pleasure in almost anything we do – eating, art, sex. Giving and especially donating is yet another way of seeking pleasure. Scientifically said, we stimulate the levels of dopamine. The reasons for this might be completely different. 

William Harbaugh, Professor of Economics at the University of Oregon carries out a series of studies. The purpose is finding out how the brain reacts in a number of situations where we give or pay something inevitable, for example, taxes. 

One of the theories reads that some of us donate to charities, led by altruism. They find pleasure in providing for the public welfare, for instance, in helping people in need. These people are only interested in what benefit is being provided, and not in the process bringing about this benefit.

Another theory, called the ‘warm glow’, claims that people love making independent decisions to give. They derive pleasure (the feeling of warm glow) from the feeling of control, the way we would prefer that we should throw the dice at gambling or that we should choose the lottery numbers by ourselves.

A third theory suggests that some people find pleasure in donating because of a higher social status. They like to be thought of as more wealthy or generous than others. Naturally, these theories are not mutually exclusive. Someone could be driven by altruism and by the desire for social approval at the same time. 

Regardless of the motives, donating  brings a deep feeling of satisfaction and self-esteem as a human being. It can bring pleasure or just make you feel useful, but let’s not forget that your decision to donate can completely change another person’s life for the better. 


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