Skip to main content

When are people willing to help others? Links with eudaimonic versus hedonic motives


This study (N = 491) examined how hedonic orientation (prioritizing pleasure, comfort/painlessness) and eudaimonic orientation (prioritizing authenticity, excellence, growth) relate to behaviours that help or hinder others and to willingness to help others in different situations. We found that eudaimonic orientation related positively to helping others and negatively to hindering others, whereas hedonic orientation related positively to hindering others. Differences were found across helping situations such that eudaimonic orientation related to willingness to help others even when the results are in the future, the recipient cannot be seen, and the helping is personally costly, whereas hedonic orientation related to a preference to help others when the results are immediate, the recipient can be seen, and the helping is not personally costly. These findings support a characterization of eudaimonia as a focus on long-term, abstract, and big-picture concerns, and hedonia as a focus on immediate, concrete, and self-focused concerns.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. As shown in the review by Huta and Waterman (2014), research definitions of eudaimonia and hedonia fall into four main definition categories: (a) Orientations (values, motives, goals), (b) Behaviours (behavioural content, activity characteristics), (c) Experiences (subjective experiences, emotions, cognitive-affective appraisals), and/or (d) Functioning (strengths, indices of positive psychological functioning, healthy habits). As argued by Huta (2016), research on all four definition categories is informative, but there are many benefits to defining eudaimonia and hedonia primarily as orientations, the way that we do in this paper, e.g., it is difficult to directly change outcomes (i.e., experiences and functioning), but what we can control are our motives and activities; furthermore, people can do the same activity for very different motives, and it is the underlying motives that best represent the life that a person is living. The operationalization of both eudaimonia and hedonia as orientations began with two seminal papers: Peterson, Park and Seligman (2005), who developed the Orientations to Happiness (OTH) questionnaire, and Huta and Ryan (2010), who developed the Hedonic and Eudaimonic Motives for Activities (HEMA) questionnaire; both questionnaires have been used by researchers throughout the world (e.g., Behzadnia & Ryan, 2018; Giuntoli et al., 2020; Jia, Li, Zhang, & Kong, 2021; Park, Peterson, & Ruch, 2009; Ruch, Harzer, Proyer, Park, & Peterson, 2010).

  2. Of note, we do not view eudaimonic and hedonic orientations as orthogonal or mutually exclusive. Rather, we see them as two unipolar dimensions whereby one can be high (or low) on both. Many researchers agree that there is overlap between eudaimonia and hedonia, both theoretically and statistically (e.g., Bauer, McAdams, & Pals, 2008; Bujacz et al., 2014; Kashdan et al., 2008; see Proctor et al., 2015; Vallerand, 2016; Waterman et al., 2008). However, there are also points of divergence (e.g., demonstrated in factor analysis, differential patterns of correlations), indicating that eudaimonia and hedonia are often distinct concepts (e.g., Huta & Ryan, 2010; Keyes et al., 2002; Ryan & Huta, 2009; Waterman et al., 2008). A recent study by Huta (2022) showed that eudaimonia and hedonia are factorially distinct when defined in various ways, one of which is as global orientations, the approach taken in this paper.


Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Veronika Huta.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Pearce, K., Huta, V. When are people willing to help others? Links with eudaimonic versus hedonic motives. Motiv Emot (2023).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Eudaimonia
  • Eudaimonic
  • Hedonia
  • Prosocial behaviour
  • Psychological distance