donation bucket

Photo: Thinkstock

10 of 10



Discovery #10: Make the Golden Rule Infectious
Be generous for no apparent reason and—here's the crucial part—make sure others take note. That's the formula for spreading kindness, found political scientist James Fowler, PhD, at the University of California, San Diego, and medical sociologist Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, at Harvard University. When they asked volunteers to play a game in which selfishness was more rational, people who gave a lot of money inspired others to do the same for the following two rounds of play. When players received unexpectedly generous sums of money, they opened their wallets in kind. And when a player acted selfishly, everyone enthusiastically chipped in to punish the person. It's a copycat effect, the researchers contend, with everyone following one plucky, deep-pocketed leader. (Sadly, selfish cycles start the same way, and just as easily.)

Next: Transforming a community, one fair-trade shoe at a time