The morning of Saturday didn’t start the way Robin planned. Being a cab driver, he needed to get up early and move around the city looking for customers. The problem was that he couldn’t do it today because of heavy rains and that had upset him. Despite that, he went ahead for the day but couldn’t get many passengers. He knew his patience was being tested and annoyance was getting on his nerves.
The times were about to change, though. He finally met a passenger who greeted him well and talked about his highly important meeting he was going for. The excitement and the motivation made Robin forget his woes and got him pumped up too. The day got sunny for him and he got many passengers too. And he made sure he greeted every passenger with the broadest of smile and motivated them well for the day. Every passenger he greeted went out happy from the cab and in turn greeted every person they met with huge gratitude.
Can you sense a chain here?
The gratitude initiated by a single person became something very huge at the end of the day. It had the power of changing so many lives. And this is what I mean when we talk about “Pay it forward”. Most of us have heard about the movie too. It might be a simple cause to initiate but it has high repercussions. A random act of kindness never goes in waste and you never know when it hit backs at you.
It sounds like a very good approach towards achieving a peaceful and happy society but does it actually work? And if it does, what is the basis of it?
In recent years, social scientists have conducted experiments demonstrating that the effect of a single act of kindness can in fact ripple through a social network, setting off chains of generosity that reach far beyond the original act.
In an experiment conducted by the New York Times, the results of which were published last month in the journal PLoS One.
For their study, they recruited more than 600 participants from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an online marketplace where users advertise tasks to be completed in exchange for money. We enlisted them to participate in something we called the Invitation Game. They were informed that they could participate in the game and earn a base payment in cash and a cash bonus — but only if they received an email invitation.
To get the game started, they created a few invitations that we sent to randomly chosen participants. Those who received invitations were then informed that they had been assigned to play the game in a group of 150 people. Each “invitee” had the opportunity to create one additional invitation for a stranger in his group if he gave back the bonus and earned only the base payment. That invitation would be sent anonymously to the stranger.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of four situations: receiving help (they got an anonymous donated invitation created by another participant); observing help (they witnessed other participants anonymously donating invitations); receiving and observing help; and neither. (In the “neither” condition, participants received their invitation directly from the experimenters, which established a baseline condition against which to compare what happened when participants received or observed help, or both.) Then we observed how the participants chose to act in each situation.
What did they find out?
The good news was that receiving help reliably increased the likelihood of being generous toward a stranger. There was one bad news too though. It was that the willingness to help suffered from what social psychologists call “the bystander effect”: When participants observed a low level of helping, it increased their own likelihood of helping; but when they observed a high level of helping, they did not themselves help — they appeared to feel that their own sacrifice was no longer needed. This finding was consistent with many previous studies of “social loafing,” “free riding” and “diffusion of responsibility.”
However, they concluded that observing an act of kindness is likely to play an important role in setting a cascade of generosity in motion, since many people can potentially observe a single act of helping. The biggest thing they witnessed is that receiving kindness increased this tendency even more.
How can we add to the cause?
It’s pretty simple actually. All you have to do is perform a random act of kindness for someone who is in dire need of it. It could be anyone, a blind man unable to cross the street or an old man unable to lift his luggage. Do your part without expecting anything in return. That would invoke a sense of gratitude in them and they would follow the same path too. And it’s a circle. What goes around comes around too. Maybe one day, you would need someone to help you and any act of kindness never goes wasted.