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The chemistry of the brain’s reward system means that when you receive a favour, like a cup of tea or a lift to work, dopamine is released, and this makes us feel good.
At the level of single cells in the brain, this doesn’t change over time – tea is always nice to receive. However, a random element added to a kind action can dramatically increase the feelings of pleasure it triggers in the brain as a whole. The unexpected is more rewarding, perhaps because we are trying to understand the world’s complex patterns.
Random good deeds also activate our social brain, which is perked up by the idea that someone is looking out for us. Unfortunately when someone is looking out for us every day the brain doesn’t recognise this as much as it probably should.