Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 351–357 | Cite as

Prosocial behavior increases well-being and vitality even without contact with the beneficiary: Causal and behavioral evidence

  • Frank MartelaEmail author
  • Richard M. Ryan
Original Paper


A number of studies have shown that prosocial behavior is associated with enhanced well-being, but most prior experimental studies have involved actual or potential face-to-face contact with the beneficiary. To establish that it is prosocial behavior itself, and not only an increased sense of social relatedness to the recipient that improves well-being, participants (n = 76) were invited to play a simple computer game, where half were made aware of a chance to have an anonymous prosocial impact through gameplay. As compared to the control condition, this group experienced more positive affect, meaningfulness and marginally more vitality. Going beyond self-reported outcomes, they also demonstrated better post-game performance on a subsequent Stroop task, providing behavioral evidence for the positive effects of prosocial behavior. Also supported was the hypothesis that these positive effects of prosocial behavior on well-being were mediated by subjectively assessed autonomy and competence need satisfactions.


Prosocial behavior Prosocial giving Prosocial impact Well-being Self-determination theory 



This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Institute for Positive Psychology and Education, Australian Catholic UniversityBanyoAustralia
  3. 3.University of RochesterRochesterUSA

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