Researchers have proven that compassion for others provides significant emotional benefits for the giver, regardless of whether the recipient is aware of the compassionate act. The study tested the Dalai Lama’s hypothesis that one’s own affective state is enhanced by compassionate concern for others’ welfare. The researchers studied 175 newlywed couples who had been married on average for 7.17 months.
The participants were asked to keep records in a daily diary for 2 weeks of those occasions in which either spouse put aside personal wishes in order to meet the needs of their partner. But the participants’ emotional well-being needed to be assessed as well. For this, a record was kept for each day of their emotional states based on 14 negative and positive terms, such as happy, enthusiastic, calm, angry, sad, and hurt.
The couples reported receiving and giving on average .65 and .59 compassionate acts each day over the course of the 2 weeks, with husbands perceiving more such acts compared to their partners. The compassionate acts included things like doing something that let the partner know they were valued, making changes to personal plans for the sake of the partner, expressing gratitude or tenderness for the partner, or just doing something thoughtful, such as the husband cleaning snow off his wife’s car before work.
Prior to the study, it was predicted that the greatest impact on the giver of the compassionate act would come when the recipient recognized the act, because the giver would feel valued by the recognition. It was also predicted that the recipient of the compassionate act would benefit the most when the act was recognized by both partners, as opposed to a compassionate act perceived by one partner. Although these predictions were confirmed, something else was discovered.
It’s clear that the recipient of compassionate act needs to notice the act to benefit from it emotionally, but for the giver, recognition is much less of a factor.
The researchers discovered that givers of compassionate acts benefit from them, whether or not the acts are explicitly noticed by the recipient. And when they are noticed, the benefits for the givers were about 45% greater compared to the recipients, as determined by the daily diary self-assessment scales, with an equally strong effect for men and women.