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Another life lesson to learn from the Hadza people: Sharing is contagious


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Photo: Getty Images/Hinterhaus Productions

Modern civilizations have learned a lot from the ancient Hadza people of Tanzania. The group of hunter-gatherers is one of the closest living example of how our earliest ancestors lived day-to-day, and its people recently fueled a discussion on how to achieve great gut health (the more fiber you eat, the better!). Now the OG healthy-living warriors are demystifying the psychology behind why some people are more generous with sharing than others.

No matter how much or how often you share in your own life—whether by donating money to a cause you believe in or tipping your favorite barista—new research points to the act of kindness being contagious. In a study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers followed the Hadza people for six years, visiting 56 of their camps within that time. After observing nearly 400 adults play a game that asked them to decide whether or not they wanted to share straws of honey—which is a common favorite food among them—researchers noted certain groups to more giving than others. And there’s a scientific reason why.

“If you find yourself surrounded by selfish people, you don’t necessarily have to find a new crowd. But by being generous yourself, you can get others to be generous as well.” —Kristopher Smith, study co-author

People’s tendency to give depended on which group they were in at a given time. Basically, they changed their behavior to match the behavior of those around them. “We were surprised to find that people don’t have a stable tendency to cooperate and are instead influenced by those around them,” lead author Coren Apicella, PhD, says in a press release. And according to co-author Kristopher Smith, doctoral candidate, if you’re generous, that quality will be contagious: “If you find yourself surrounded by selfish people, you don’t necessarily have to find a new crowd. But by being generous yourself, you can get others to be generous as well,” he says.

So keep on being kind and sharing when you feel the urge. Not only will you be making a positive difference in the world on an individual level, but there’s a good chance the behavior will also rub off on those around you.

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