Research Matters

Research Matters


Using questionnaires, cognitive tasks, and advanced technology, Omri Gillath and his team will aim to discover the thought processes and neural activity linked with generosity.

Episode #78

2 minutes (2.7 MB) | Download mp3


In an era of economic suffering, researchers work to discover more about personal generosity. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

Investigators at KU are delving into the behavioral, cognitive and neural causes of generosity with support from the University of Notre Dame's Science of Generosity Initiative. Omri Gillath will spearhead the research.

Gillath: We're trying to understand how we can enhance generosity. While doing it, we're also trying to understand what generosity is, and what its underlying mechanisms are. We'll start out by defining generosity as the virtue of giving to other people - whether it is money or other resources such as time. From there, we'll try to understand the factors effecting generous behavior.

Gillath said that although little is known about generosity, giving to others does seem to depend upon a few important factors.

Gillath: We do know that some people tend to give. We do know that it depends on the correct environment and whether other people are looking at them. We do know that it depends on modeling, so that if your parents used to give, you are more likely to give. After getting some of the answers, we're going to look for correlations or similarities between how they talk abut their close relationships - so how they behave with family friends and significant others - and how they talk about giving in general.

The KU researcher said that he expects to reveal an association between generosity and an individual's sense of emotional wellbeing.

Gillath: What we're hoping to find is a connection between how you feel with those close to you - what we call 'attachment figures' - and how generous you are. The more secure you are, we expect the more generous you will be. If you feel safe, loved and helped, you'll be more likely to help and give to others. Being secure allows you to not focus on your own troubles, and instead focus on the troubles of other people.

For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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