Friday, June 15, 2007

Charity: It's Not a No Brainer

An elderly woman I knew once told me "I never lost anything by giving things away".

A news story, which can be found here begins

"Researchers at the University of Oregon have found a connection between acts of charity and a pleasure center deep in the brain, a discovery that offers new insight into why people help others.... The results show that charitable giving, even just seeing someone else's money being given, pleases people in much the same way as eating, being with friends or even falling in love."

I noted several serious and obvious flaws with how this research was conducted. The subjects were "19 college-age women" and one has to wonder how or if the results would differ if the subject pool were larger and included men and people who were older. The money that was given away also wasn't money they'd earned; it was money that had been given to them.

There also seemed to be some confusion trying to compare paying taxes with charitable giving and the two clearly are not comparable. (In one of my library school classes this summer, Global Information Infrastructure one question we discussed was "Why is there a mistrust of science?" Badly designed studies and conclusions that go beyond the scope of the research are two reasons. The media's spin is another and I think I'll probably need to find the citation and read the original research article.)

Still, it's intriguing. I wonder what researchers would find it they looked at people actively doing something (like knitting) instead of doing something passive (like giving away money)?