Studies from Harvard show that being nice is a pretty good strategy.On this Good Friday, we figured we’d go for a few pieces of good news.
First of all, a study done in conjunction by the University of British Columbia and Harvard showed that people get more satisfaction from giving that receiving. Basically, people that spend a higher percentage of their income on gifts and charity are typically happier. The study correlated the happiness of 632 people with the percentage of income spent on gifting.
Is this nurture or nature? Are these givers actually happier or just fooling themselves? And if they do get a benefit out of it can it really be considered altruistic? This principle certainly applies to relationships. Can it apply to giving/ receiving orgasms? Is this what Paul McCartney was talking about with that “the love you take/ Is equal to the love you make” business? If you could "take it with you" then this wouldn't make any sense. The study will show up in the journal Science on March 21st. Read more of it at Yahoo! News.
Along a similar vein, it looks like being a good guy is starting to pay-off. A study at Harvard (where else?) showed, using game theory, that punishing an opponent is a losing strategy in the long run. Quick tutorial on game theory: there is a classic game called The Prisoners Dilemma. Two opponents have the chance to defect or cooperate. If they both refuse to sell out the other, they get a reduced jail sentence. If they both sell each other out, they get a medium jail sentence. If one sells out and the other doesn’t then the rat gets no jail and the patsy gets a long sentence. In the single play scenario, defecting is always the better idea. But most researchers use an iterative process with points instead of years in jail so that the players can punish treachery. Got it?
So this study at Harvard added a twist. They allowed competitors the right to punish someone that sold them out, but it cost them too. And the results showed that, in the long run, the player that defected and punished his opponent the least frequently scored the most points. Hence, nice guys finishing first. We were trying to think of a relationship scenario to apply this to, but usually the wingman/ woman gets the grenade. And bad boyfs/ girlfs walk all over cooperative ones, but who gives a doodle? Check out more of this story at USA Today…
We’re guessing that both of the studies were NOT conducted at Harvard Business School. But the good news is it looks like the meek will inherit the Earth after all and the haters will get their comeuppance. Or the Harvard people are just pulling the wool over our eyes, again.