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Home » Helping Others Makes Us Happier – But It Matters How We Do It: Elizabeth Dunn (Transcript)

Helping Others Makes Us Happier – But It Matters How We Do It: Elizabeth Dunn (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Elizabeth Dunn’s talk titled “Helping Others Makes Us Happier – But It Matters How We Do It” at TED conference.

In this talk, social psychologist Elizabeth Dunn discusses the profound joy and satisfaction derived from giving to others, underscoring the positive impact on happiness both in her research and personal experiences. She reveals that even toddlers experience joy from giving, indicating a potentially inherent nature of generosity in humans. Despite her findings, Dunn admits to initially not feeling the expected emotional reward from her own acts of charity, prompting a deeper exploration into the nature of giving.

Her investigation highlights that the happiness derived from giving is significantly enhanced when there’s a tangible connection and visible impact on the recipients’ lives. Through the example of sponsoring a Syrian refugee family in Canada, Dunn illustrates how deeply involved and personal giving can lead to greater fulfillment. She argues that traditional charity, without a direct connection to those helped, may not offer the same emotional return, suggesting a need for rethinking charitable efforts to emphasize personal engagement and visible outcomes.

Dunn concludes by encouraging a shift in perspective towards viewing giving not just as a moral obligation but as a source of genuine pleasure and a key to human happiness.

Listen to the audio version here:


So, I have a pretty fun job, which is to figure out what makes people happy. It’s so fun, it might almost seem a little frivolous, especially at a time where we’re being confronted with some pretty depressing headlines. But it turns out that studying happiness might provide a key to solving some of the toughest problems we’re facing. It’s taken me almost a decade to figure this out.

Pretty early on in my career, I published a paper in “Science” with my collaborators, entitled, “Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness.” I was very confident in this conclusion, except for one thing: it didn’t seem to apply to me. I hardly ever gave money to charity, and when I did, I didn’t feel that warm glow I was expecting. So, I started to wonder if maybe there was something wrong with my research or something wrong with me.

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