The Science Behind Paying It Forward

‘Paying it forward’ is a kindness concept that has long since been practiced. The idea is that a single act of kindness can ripple outward, creating a sort of domino effect. No matter how small, kind actions are believed to create an impact on the giver and the receiver, increasing the likelihood of both parties to continue seeking ways to make an impact, and driving kindness outward into every direction it touches.

Paying It Forward

Think back to the last time you spontaneously did something nice for someone. Whether it was a grand gesture of kindness, or something as simple as buying someone coffee, sending a card, or giving a compliment, how did you feel afterward? In our experience, every kind act leaves us feeling on cloud nine. There’s something about being of service that somehow magnifies gratitude and lifts our spirits every time. 

But that’s not all! There’s also the piece about the person receiving the kindness. We don’t know about you, but for us, there’s something so special about being on the receiving end. Be it from a loved one or a stranger on the street, receiving kindness creates a feeling of connection and relatedness. These feelings are uplifting and increase gratitude which, in turn, leads to more kindness. Imagine that?!

What’s even more mind-blowing about this sort of rippled kindness effect that takes place, is that it can actually shift our energetic environment. Meaning, that the people we spend time with will pick up on our kind mindsets, noticing our behaviors and associated attitudes and increasing their internal motivation to practice kindness in their own lives. Did you get that?! Kindness is, in fact, contagious, and can be spread indirectly too! 

We’re sure by now you’ve got the idea. But that means that each receiver of kindness who goes on to spread kindness directly can also spread it indirectly! Now we’re getting the picture. It’s like raindrops on a pond… the rain starts slow, but man does it get going quickly!

The Pay It Forward Effect

Let’s talk about the research. Despite the testimony of millions who have participated in their own versions of ‘paying it forward’, science has actually proven that the ‘pay it forward effect’ is, in fact, real!

One such study providing research to support this claim is Joseph Chancellor’s “Ripples of Generosity in the Workplace: The Benefits of Giving, Getting, and Glimpsing.” In Chancellor’s study, coworkers were assigned to one of three groups: givers, receivers, and controls. Givers were asked to offer random acts of kindness to the receivers “who were unaware of the Givers’ assignment.”

As Chancellor hypothesized, “Results showed that both Givers and Receivers mutually benefit in well-being from the Givers’ practice of generosity, that receiving generosity is an unequivocally positive experience, and that the rewards of practicing generosity spill over to others in the Givers’ social networks.” The study goes on to state, “Furthermore, Receivers spontaneously chose to practice their own acts of kindness–demonstrating a pay-it-forward effect–and both Givers and Receivers inspired others in their social networks to act kindly towards others.”

So there you have it, folks! The benefits of paying it forward are widespread, with exponential potential. You really never know how far your one kind act could travel, or how many lives might be touched as a result. A big shoutout to Joseph Chancellor for leading his study on kindness, and of course, to all of you out there keeping the kindness moving!

Comments are closed