Monday 9th February sees the start of Random Acts of Kindness Week. You are probably ahead of me on this, you may know about RAK Week already. I’m reminding you now because serendipity (a clumsy sentence I know but I can’t spell ‘seneripidously’), delivered something to me this morning and asked me to share it with you, which, as an act of kindness, I’m doing.
Altruism if one of the natural characteristics of our species. Though it’s mysterious and counter-intuitive in societies that live according to the gospel of personal identity and individual interest, there are countless daily examples of people doing nice things for each other with no reward in view, and spontaneously.
Needless to say, it’s been studied and the results make interesting reading. One finding, according to researchers, is that the explanation for such gestures lies not in likelihood of benefit or payoff for the giver, but in simple behavioural mimicry: Monkey see, monkey do, human style. When people are irrationally generous, others follow suit.
Speaking from my own extremely limited experience, I’d say that there is also a direct, personal benefit; doing something nice for somebody leaves us with a warm glow inside that cannot be produced any other way.
Brandon Keim: Kindness Breeds More Kindness, Study Shows
Matt Ridley: The Origins of Virtue