Even as four-year-olds, poor people are more generous than their richer counterparts, an altruism experiment suggests.
Psychologists also found that teaching pre-school children to help those in need can lead them being healthier later in life, reports telegraph.co.uk. Researchers from the University of California carried out an altruism experiment on 74 children (aged four). During the experiment, the children played games that would earn them tokens, which they could swap for prizes at the end.
At the end of the session, the children were told that they could donate some or all of their tokens to ill children who had been unable to take part in the experiment. The donations were made to look like they were secret, meaning the children were being genuinely altruistic by giving away tokens to benefit others, but without being able to show off about their generosity.
Children from less wealthy parents donated the most, suggesting they were more altruistic than their better-off peers.
Electrodes were fitted to the youngsters allowing scientists to monitor heart rate and the vagus nerve. The study published in the journal “Psychological Science” found that those who were the most generous at their expense were more able to control their stress levels via the vagus nerve.
Controlling this nerve, which regulates stress from the brain to the body, leads to better physical and mental health as they grow up, the researchers said. Those who donated the most had the highest “vagal tone” the more safe and calm one feels leading to better health and social skills generally.
Jonas Miller, the lead researcher, said, “It means we might be wired from a young age to derive a sense of safety from providing care for others.” He added that rich parents eager to hold on to their money could be , unwittingly, passing down a decreased SOCIAL SENSITIVITY to their children. .