Generosity: Nature vs. Nurture

At Masterworks we believe that humans are “wired” to be generous, but that doesn’t mean generosity isn’t also nurtured in us. In fact, a very interesting study shows that children learn generosity not by listening to what their role models say, but by observing what they do.

Psychologist J. Philippe Rushton gave 140 elementary- and middle-school-age children tokens for winning a game, which they could keep or donate to a child in poverty. The children were accompanied by a teacher figure who played the game and then either kept the tokens or was generous with them. Then the teacher would extol the children on the value of taking, giving or neither.

The teacher’s influence was overwhelming. Actions speak louder than words. When the teacher acted generously, her students were 85% more likely to be generous. Even when the teacher acted generously but extolled her students to be selfish, those students still gave 49% more than the norm.

How might we use our tools of fundraising to equip parents to tell and show their children the importance of being generous?