Social Indicators Research

, Volume 125, Issue 2, pp 665–676

Downward Social Comparison Increases Life-Satisfaction in the Giving and Volunteering Context


DOI: 10.1007/s11205-014-0849-6

Cite this article as:
Huang, Y. Soc Indic Res (2016) 125: 665. doi:10.1007/s11205-014-0849-6


Using samples of U.S. residents recruited from an online subject pool, this research confirms that charitable behavior is associated with higher life-satisfaction based on a retrospective survey (Study 1). Adopting experimental manipulation, we also find that participants report higher life-satisfaction after volunteering for a downward comparable target (i.e., the poor) than helping a non-comparable target (i.e., Wikipedia). But the above effect exists only among high social-comparison individuals (Study 2). Moreover, among people high in social comparison, comparing oneself with a downward comparable target without helping can lead to a similar level of life-satisfaction as helping the target. In contrast, participants who are low in social comparison achieve higher life-satisfaction when comparing themselves to rather than helping the target (Study 3). These findings suggest that charitable giving and volunteering contributes to life-satisfaction through allowing for downward social comparison.


Giving and volunteering Life-satisfaction Downward social comparison 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marketing & Electronic Business Department, School of BusinessNanjing UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China

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