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Moral Actions

June 8, 2010

Doing good can improve physical endurance.


Getting strength from doing good…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Helping others might not only make you feel good, it could also increase your physical endurance. That’s according to a new study by Kurt Gray, a doctoral student in psychology at Harvard University. He did a simple test where he gave passers-by a dollar that they could either keep or give to charity. Then Gray asked them to hold a five-pound weight out from their body for as long as they could.

KURT GRAY (Harvard University):
Those who were given the chance to donate the money could hold the weight significantly longer than those who had a chance to just keep the money.

Gray says the effect is due to a self-fulfilling prophecy. We think of superheroes as having enhanced abilities, so when we do good, we become the kind of person who is capable of heroism. Gray’s study appears in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.