Do-Gooders Do Better

“Spread a Little Sunshine” is a song from the musical Pippin that holds some timeless wisdom about the self-serving and universal benefits of small acts of kindness. The lyrics: “When I help others, I’m really helping myself . . . If we all could spread a little sunshine and lend a helping hand, we all would be a little closer to the promised land.”

It may seem opportunistic or selfish to view being a “do-gooder” as a way to help yourself—but evolutionary psychologists speculate that what looks like “selfless acts of altruism” on the surface may have evolved as a way for our species (as a collective) to survive and flourish. Ultimately, cooperative behavior and small acts of kindness may provide a selective advantage to the “altruist” in the form of various return benefits.

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