Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spending money on others promotes happiness

Spending money on others promotes happiness
from Science

Elizabeth W. Dunn, Lara B. Aknin, Michael I. Norton

Although much research has examined the effect of income on happiness, we suggest that
how people spend their money may be at least as important as how much money they earn.
Specifically, we hypothesized that spending money on other people may have a more positive
impact on happiness than spending money on oneself. Providing converging evidence for this
hypothesis, we found that spending more of one’s income on others predicted greater
happiness both cross-sectionally (in a nationally representative survey study) and longitudinally
(in a field study of windfall spending). Finally, participants who were randomly assigned to
spend money on others experienced greater happiness than those assigned to spend money
on themselves.


Michael Daly said...
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Michael Daly said...

An interesting one. The happiness derived from prosocial spending has been shown to be contingent on the level of gratitude expressed by the recipient. This is because a grateful person is more likely to do you a good turn in the future. As the money spent on others in this paper were in the form of gifts (likely to known others) it would also be good to know how many gifts the people in the study received and their value. This would help determine if the increase in happiness was associated with giving or receiving gifts.

The experimental study also does not control for gifts received as the participants could give the gift to someone who will be likely to repay them in the future. It would be worthwhile to distinguish between spending money on others where there is a possibility of a return (e.g. to a friend or relative) and where there is little possibility of a return (e.g. charitable givings). Both forms of giving are likely to have very different effects on happiness and the 'glow' factor associated with each is likely to be determined by different variables. For example, charitable giving may have positive effects on self-image, giving to friends may increase the likelihood of a return when most needed, giving to relatives may be a function of genetic connectedness..

Kevin Denny said...

Being the altruist I am, I am happy to facilitate other people's increased happiness. You may leave envelopes stuffed with cash in my mailbox. No need to include your name, I don't care who gives me money.