IN 2008, ADAM Grant, a Wharton management professor and social psychologist, conducted a very telling study.1 He and two research assistants went to an outbound call center where a fund-raising organization was raising money for a major university. They divided the callers into three random groups. Ten minutes prior to starting their shift, the first and second groups were asked to report to the break room, where they were asked to read stories. The third group (the control group) was left to report to work on time as usual.

The first group, which we’ll call the “benefit to others” group, read stories that were written ...

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