The Surprising Reason Some People Are More Generous Than Others

Cultivating a selfless concern for the well-being of others may be as simple as listening to your own heart, according to a brand-new study out of the U.K.

friends-huggingEugenio Marongiu/ShutterstockIf the idea of being selfless seems foreign, it may be that you’re just wired differently, according to a new research from the U.K. Altruistic people are more aware of their actual heart, and it seems to inspire them to be more giving.

In a recent study, published in Scientific Reports, researchers at Anglia Ruskin University and Stockholm University wanted to test whether being more or less aware of the sound of one’s own heartbeat could predict altruism or self-interest. According to, the researchers asked 20 volunteers to play a computer game that allowed them to share money with strangers—or keep it all for themselves; this mimics the real life decision to be charitable, the researchers say. Throughout the game play, the researchers recorded the volunteers’ heartbeat. For the second part of the study, the participants listened to a series of sounds and were asked to judge if the sounds were in sync or out of sync with their actual heartbeats.

After analyzing the results, the researchers discovered that volunteers who were best at recognizing their own heartbeat scored much higher in altruism. Richard Piech, PhD, senior lecturer in psychology at Anglia Ruskin University and co-author of the study, told Eurekalert: “Our study suggests that selfless acts may be influenced by signals from the body that reach the brain. It may be that an emotionally charged situation—such as deciding whether or not to give money away—causes a change in heartbeat. This bodily change may then bias decision making towards the generous option in those people who are better at detecting their heartbeats. These findings suggest that, in some sense, people ‘listen to their heart’ to guide their selfless behaviors.”

These everyday acts of generosity just might melt your heart.

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Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.