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What research has been done on the altruistic impact of the usual good actions?

by Alexei1 min read27th Jan 20206 comments

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What I mean by the "usual good actions" is notable good deeds you do may be a few times every week. Some examples:

  • Help a friend end an abusive relationship.
  • Go out of your way to help a stranger.
  • Do something extra nice and thoughtful for your partner.
  • Show up in person to support your friend's endeavor.
  • Procure a Burning Man ticket for your friend.
  • Refrain from calling your co-founder's idea "the dumbest thing I've heard this year" and do your best to listen.

What I mean by "altruistic impact" is probably QALYs, but I guess it's harder to use that metric here because you're working with changes in a pretty high quality life already vs. the difference between alive and dead. So may be there's a better metric. I'm also interested in the indirect impact of these actions (see my comment).

I'm also open to better a rephrasing of this question.

Oh, and I'm happy to hear everyone's thoughts on this without research too.

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I suspect that you're well into the measurement-error range for the things you're talking about. It would be silly to expect a measurable change in QALY for something you spend a tiny fraction of your waking year on or a tiny fraction of your annual income on. Let alone the debate about how to adjust the quality measure based on such things.

Fortunately, at these scales, you can use anecdotal evidence of improvement in YOUR experience, for many things. Your friend's smile or your co-founder's continued stream of horrible ideas are plenty of reward for the low cost of the kindness you're considering.