Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 347–355

Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion: Evidence for a Positive Feedback Loop between Prosocial Spending and Happiness


    • Psychology DepartmentUniversity of British Columbia
  • Elizabeth W. Dunn
    • Psychology DepartmentUniversity of British Columbia
  • Michael I. Norton
    • Marketing DepartmentHarvard Business School

DOI: 10.1007/s10902-011-9267-5

Cite this article as:
Aknin, L.B., Dunn, E.W. & Norton, M.I. J Happiness Stud (2012) 13: 347. doi:10.1007/s10902-011-9267-5


We examine whether a positive feedback loop exists between spending money on others (i.e. prosocial spending) and happiness. Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future. Thus, by providing initial evidence for a positive feedback loop between prosocial spending and well-being, these data offer one potential path to sustainable happiness: prosocial spending increases happiness which in turn encourages prosocial spending.


HappinessWell-beingMoneyProsocial spendingSustainabilityFeedback loop

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011