Apparently Pay it Forward kindness actually pays off. Researchers have demonstrated a direct correlation between an initial act of kindness and a ‘waterfall’ effect which initiates other benevolent acts in a ripple effect from person to person.
The research, conducted by James Fowler of UC San Diego and Nicholas Cristakis of Harvard Medical School, documents this social contagion as spreading further than you’d think – what you do can influence people 3 degrees of separation away from your initial act. Pretty cool.
In the current study, Fowler and Christakis show that when one person gives money to help others in a “public-goods game,” where people have the opportunity to cooperate with each other, the recipients are more likely to give their own money away to other people in future games. This creates a domino effect in which one person’s generosity spreads first to three people and then to the nine people that those three people interact with in the future, and then to still other individuals in subsequent waves of the experiment.