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The Psychology of Giving; A Reason behind the Season

The Psychology of Giving; A Reason behind the Season

SARASOTA, Fla., Oct. 28 /PRNewswire/ — Towards the end of each year, people are swept away in “that giving feeling.” Co-workers may band together and hold an office clothing drive to benefit the local Salvation Army chapter. Families prepare food baskets for neighbors who have fallen on hard times, perhaps due to loss of a job or death in the family. And individuals volunteer portions of their holidays to spend time at homeless shelters and nursing homes, providing companionship, a smile, and warmth in these otherwise cold places.

But why do we give to others — even to complete strangers? What are the psychological motives behind our charitable acts, especially during the Thanksgiving and holiday season? According to Dr. William Clough, associate professor of counseling at Argosy University/Sarasota, these are complex questions.

“On the surface, one might think that there is no reason to extend oneself on behalf of another unless there is payback,” explains Dr. Clough, who is also director of the pastoral community counseling program at Argosy University/Sarasota. “In fact, we give for a variety of reasons, especially during the holiday season.”

According to Dr. Clough, Americans may give because they fundamentally believe in it, and it is particularly important during the Thanksgiving and Christmas time of year. “No matter what your individual religion, the United States is filled with messages that giving is valuable in and of itself. It contributes to the spiritual and physical building up of people and communities, giver and receiver.”

The psychology of giving is deeply rooted in one of our most celebrated and highly anticipated holidays of the year: Thanksgiving. Especially in November, people might give out of a sense of gratitude. Ever since the United States established Thanksgiving as a holiday, giving has been associated with gratitude and viewed as a combination of duty, joy, and moral imperative.

According to a national survey conducted several years ago by The Aspen Institute, there are six motivational factors in giving: values, understanding, social, enhancement, protective, and career. While these motives may be veiled in a selfish mask (“I give to get something out of it”), many mental health professionals promote thankfulness as a healthy psychological attribute.

Explains Dr. Clough: “When I feel rich and full enough to give, I am free to relate to people and life on their own terms, rather than being obsessed with my problems, needs, hopes, dreams. In short, being consumed with myself.”

Even the seasons and geography is part of the psychology of giving. Perhaps this time of year has stimulated giving, especially to those living north of the equator. Autumn is the time of harvest, when those who have reaped bountifully and those who have not would be living together, and Americans have memorialized their feeling of gratitude in Thanksgiving. This holiday helps us to remember to feel gratitude, which is a good feeling and a precursor to giving.

As people begin to prepare for the end-of-year holidays, the sense of giving will surround them like the season’s first snowfall. Despite any denominational backgrounds or class status, the practice of giving will be stitched in the holidays’ fabric. The reasons behind giving may vary from person to person, but it is a force that unites us all.

Argosy University/Sarasota is one of 13 Argosy University ( ) campuses and six extension sites across the nation offering undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate degrees in the disciplines of business, education, health sciences, and psychology and behavioral sciences. Argosy University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association (NCA) (30 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2400, Chicago, IL 60602, 1.312.263.0456, ).

The parent company of Argosy University, Education Management Corporation ( ), is among the largest providers of private post- secondary education in North America, based on student enrollment and revenue. Student enrollment exceeded 58,000 as of fall 2003. EDMC has 67 primary campus locations in 24 states and two Canadian provinces. EDMC’s education institutions offer a broad range of academic programs concentrated in the media arts, design, fashion, culinary arts, behavioral sciences, health sciences, education, information technology and business fields, culminating in the award of associate’s through doctoral degrees. EDMC has provided career-oriented education for over 40 years.

CONTACT: Mark C. Toth of Education Management Corporation, +1-412-995-7263, or

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