The result: On the one hand, both the actors and the addressees were more positive than usual after the exchange. On the other hand, the actors underestimated its effect: the messengers felt much better and also rated the good deeds as more important than the actors had expected.
At first, interaction was only between people known to each other, such as friends or family members. But when test subjects served strangers hot chocolate in a public park on a cold winter’s day, the experience was also more positive than might be expected for the strangers. While gift-givers considered hot chocolate to be relatively unimportant, it was of great importance to gift recipients.
The warmth of an unexpected gift makes cupcakes even sweeter
We also found a reason why people underestimate the impact of their own good deeds. When it comes to how happy someone would be if they got a pie for participating in a study, expected and actual reactions matched up nicely. However, if the sweet gift was unexpected, givers underestimated how good the recipient would feel as a result: they detected more human warmth in the kind gesture. The warmth of the unexpected gift made the cupcake even sweeter.
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