It's better to give than to receive

Individuals are more motivated to assist others when they think about what they have given rather than what they have received. This is the suggestion of a new study published in the Association for Psychological Science journal Psychological Science, which looked at how reflection through expressive writing can influence pro-social behaviour.

Researchers from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan found people often feel an obligation to help a person who has handed them something, but do not feel the same towards others.

In addition, it was demonstrated that adults may feel dependent and indebted to people they have received items from.

The investigators discovered, however, that reflecting on giving can bolster a person's identity as a caring and helpful individual and allow them to perceive themselves as a benefactor.

"Helping, giving, volunteering and other actions undertaken to benefit others play a critical role in protecting health, promoting education, fighting poverty and hunger and providing disaster relief," they wrote.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Peter Martin commented: "This important research underscores a basic concept of sociology, economics and politics that power is a key factor in all social relationships. Giving is likely to be perceived as a much more powerful act than receiving. Such findings need to be harnessed by all who are seeking to community build in any sense. The Big society will come to fruition because altruism enlarges the life of those who give, not because a small group of people are driven by duty or even by ideology."