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Getting the Most out of Giving: Pursuing Concretely-Framed Prosocial Goals Maximizes Happiness

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  • Rudd, Melanie

    (Stanford University)

  • Aaker, Jennifer

    (Stanford University)

  • Norton, Michael I.

    (Harvard University)

Abstract

Across six field and laboratory experiments, participants given a concretely-framed prosocial goal (e.g., making someone smile, increasing recycling) felt happier after performing a goal-directed act of kindness than did those who were assigned a functionally similar, but more abstractly-framed, prosocial goal (e.g., making someone happy, saving the environment). This effect was driven by differences in the size of the gap between participants' expectations and reality: Compared to those assigned to pursue an abstractly-framed prosocial goal, those assigned to pursue a concretely-framed goal perceived that the actual outcome of their goal-directed efforts more accurately matched their expectations, causing them to experience a greater boost in personal happiness. Further, participants were unable to predict this effect, believing that pursuing abstractly-framed prosocial goals would have either an equal or greater positive impact on their own happiness.

Suggested Citation

  • Rudd, Melanie & Aaker, Jennifer & Norton, Michael I., 2013. "Getting the Most out of Giving: Pursuing Concretely-Framed Prosocial Goals Maximizes Happiness," Research Papers 2129, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:2129
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. R. Vermunt & E. Spaans & F. Zorge, 1989. "Satisfaction, happiness and well-being of Dutch students," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 1-33, February.
    2. Kennon Sheldon & Sonja Lyubomirsky, 2006. "Achieving Sustainable Gains in Happiness: Change Your Actions, not Your Circumstances," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 55-86, March.
    3. Alex Michalos, 1980. "Satisfaction and happiness," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 385-422, December.
    4. Alex Michalos, 1985. "Multiple discrepancies theory (MDT)," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 16(4), pages 347-413, May.
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