BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- It's earnings season -- and for dividend investors, it's about the possibility of a dividend hike every bit as much as it is about lifting the curtains on corporate profits.Typically, dividends and earnings season go hand in hand. That stands to reason -- after all, it's those corporate profits that are (ideally) fuelling a company's dividend payouts. And now, with corporate profits sitting at all-time highs, income investors are in a good position to get paid more cash in 2012. >>5 Big Stocks to Trade for Gains While many investors still think of dividends as a tradeoff from capital gains, it's just not the case. Pure and simple, more cash payouts from dividends equal greater total returns on a historical basis. Over the last 36 years, dividend stocks have outperformed the rest of the S&P 500 by 2.5% annually, and they outperformed nonpayers by nearly 8% every year, all while paying out cash to their shareholders, according to data compiled by Ned Davis Research. The numbers are even more compelling when looking at companies that consistently increase their payouts. That's why we pay close attention to the firms that are shoveling more corporate cash to shareholders. With that, here's a look at seven stocks that hiked payouts in the last couple of weeks.