In an article appearing on the Greater Good website, Summer Allen reports on a research suggesting that our generosity might not only be shaped by the helper's high but also by our trust in the institutions governing our society — courts, police, schools, religious communities or political parties.
Yale University researchers used online games to test each participant’s generosity. They found that those who were more confident in institutions gave more generously. High quality institutions promote co-operation and spark giving as a way of benefiting others.
The research also yielded some interesting results about whether having rules that did or did not punish selfishness would lead people to be generous. Adding the chance of having behavior inspected further complicated the research.
Lauren Taylor White is a researcher and seminar leader on the topic of generosity in faith communities. She affirms these findings when she writes in Giving -The Sacred Art that generosity is "more than writing a check; it is an entire way of life. It is about how we look at other people and react. It is about how we spend our weekends. It is about how we use our talents."