New research on the link between altruism and happiness

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Suppose you’re given $10 that you can spend either to benefit someone else or to benefit yourself. Which course of action do you think would make you happier? A growing body of psychological research shows that, surprisingly, people are happier when they act to benefit others than when they act to benefit themselves.

For instance, in one of the earliest studies to investigate this link, participants rated their level of happiness in the morning and were then given either $5 or $20. One group of participants was assigned to the personal spending condition, being instructed to either pay for a…

New research points to mental health benefits for the devout and agnostic alike

A man looks out at the sky and cityscape.
A man looks out at the sky and cityscape.
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Maybe you don’t believe in God. But could cultivating a relationship with God, despite your agnostic stance, make a difference for your mental health? As a philosopher of religion, this question is of great interest to me — and now a recent research trend suggests the answer might be yes.

For decades, researchers have wondered about the factors that account for the complex relationship between religion and mental health. Under certain circumstances, it appears that religion positively influences mental health — though not in all cases. …

Research into what motivates our supportive behaviors

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In times of crisis, it is common to valorize putting others first. Yet, you might wonder whether being the kind of person who puts others first is unequivocally good. There’s a current of resistance to this idea in popular culture — “That’s the problem with putting others first; you’ve shown them that you come second” is a common aphorism. And experts are emphasizing the importance of self-care and the risks of self-neglect in these stressful times.

So, which is it?

Recent research in philosophy and psychology suggests it depends. Tending to put others first can be very good for you…

T Ryan Byerly

Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Sheffield. Author of several books, including Putting Others First (Routledge Press: 2019)

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