Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion: Evidence for a Positive Feedback Loop between Prosocial Spending and Happiness
- 4.3k Downloads
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.
KeywordsHappiness Well-being Money Prosocial spending Sustainability Feedback loop
The authors would like to thank Jason Chin, Alyssa Croft, Kate Rogers, and Azim Shariff for helpful comments on an earlier draft.
- Aknin, L. B., Barrington-Leigh, C. P., Dunn, E. W., Helliwell, J. F., Biswas-Diener, R., Kemeza, I., et al. (2011a). Prosocial spending and well-being: Cross-cultural evidence for a psychological universal. (Manuscript under review).Google Scholar
- Aknin, L. B., Sandstrom, G. M., Dunn, E. W., & Norton, M. I. (2011b). Putting the “social” in prosocial spending: Social contact as a catalyst for turning good deeds into good feelings. (Manuscript in preparation).Google Scholar
- Cohn, M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (in press). In search of durable positive psychology interventions: Predictors and consequences of long-term positive behavior change. Journal of Positive Psychology.Google Scholar
- Frederick, S., & Loewenstein, G. (1999). Hedonic adaptation. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 302–329). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
- Helliwell, J. F. (2002). How’s life? Combining individual and national variables to explain subjective well-being. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. W9065.Google Scholar
- McClintock, C. G. (1978). Social values: Their definition, measurement, and development. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 12, 121–137.Google Scholar