The Washington Post:
My second-born son Oliver has a serious affinity for stuffed animals. He takes such tender care of them, wrapping them in blankets when it is chilly, hauling them around on errands, baby-talking them when he thinks no one else is listening, lining them up just so next to his bed, and tucking them lovingly in every single night.
That is why, when my oldest son Milo walked past a gift shop when we were out one day just the two of us, I was touched when he noted how much his brother would love the little stuffed gray fox in the window. I took him by the hand and turned him around, giddy with the thought of the lesson in store. After telling him that we could get the little gift for his brother, we headed inside. Unfortunately, the lesson didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped.
Research by Netta Weinstein and Richard Ryan found that college students reported higher levels of happiness on days that they had done something helpful or kind for others, but only when those actions felt self-chosen. Such self-chosen prosocial acts can even be seen in brain scans, according to a study at the University of Oregon; the reward centers of the brain were activated during the act of giving money, but turned out to be considerably greater when the person giving viewed the act as a choice rather than a mandatory charitable action.
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