DOOLITTLE: Holiday generosity popular for self gain

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Web_Doolittle_mugshotBY ALEXX DOOLITTLE
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Although good deeds are often done by good people, I’m starting to notice that kind hearts and generosity are more of trends and tedious obligations to younger generations than a social responsibility.

Something I recently learned in my psychology class and seeing it in action around the holiday season incites my attempt to chastise the lack of meaningful generosity and to inspire, or bring out, your sense of social responsibility.

The social exchange theory states that some social behaviors are motivated solely by the expectation of something in exchange – the opportunity to gain maximum benefits for a minimal cost motivates these behaviors.

The recent canned food drive caused school-wide controversy due to the teachers’ generous offer of extra credit, homework passes, and other perks to students in exchange for their charity.

At least with all of the classes that I’m in, I noticed that there was, in fact, a lack in heartfelt charity.

Psychology teacher Mark Andreatta’s constant remarks about society, politics, the woes of high-school drama usually serve to keep me engaged in discussions of psychology when my morning cup of coffee wears off. Though his recent satirical comments about the canned food drive were entertaining to say the least, they were also eye-opening.

Andreatta refused to offer something in return for his students who brought in canned goods.

In fact, because of his lack of offerings, he told us that he didn’t expect to raise anything at all. He shared to us his realization that he couldn’t compete with his colleagues who were offering something in return.

And when the drive was over, he announced in disappointment that none of his three classes raised a single can.

Whether Andreatta’s tone of disappointed revelation was intentional or not, my class had our own moment of guilty realization after we witnessed firsthand social exchange principals our colleagues and ourselves had acted upon.

We told ourselves it was okay because “hey, at least we donated something.” We repressed the idea that the only reason we were doing the generous deed was for our own benefit.

The teachers inciting this obviously had the best intentions in offering a motive for students in exchange for canned goods, and it obviously worked.

However, had no teachers offered a beneficial exchange, many students wouldn’t have taken time of their day or money out of their hard-earned paychecks to donate.

The recent can-troversy was what brought this idea to my attention and it was amplified by seeing the social exchange theory in action.

The “reciprocity norm” is the tendency to expect that people will help, not hurt, those who have helped them.

This reciprocity norm is nothing new, especially in the realm of young adults looking to make it into college.

“Honey, I signed you up to feed the homeless this weekend because it will look good when you apply for your colleges.”

Some use this season as the basis for their reasons to contribute to their communities. They know that sooner or later, they will have to do something for the good of society, for the good of their college applications. And what better time to do this than the holly-jolly holidays?

If this doesn’t show false generosity, then I don’t know what does. We continue to tell ourselves that we’d feed the homeless population any day, that we’d cancel our lunch dates in our summer time off and our plans to support the fall sports, from the kindness in our hearts, but who really would? Who would sincerely reach out and help solely for the others in need rather than for your own benefit?