Feeling Good About Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior

23 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2009

See all articles by Lalin Anik

Lalin Anik

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Lara B. Aknin

University of British Columbia

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

Elizabeth W. Dunn

University of British Columbia - Department of Psychology

Date Written: August 6, 2009

Abstract

While lay intuitions and pop psychology suggest that helping others leads to higher levels of happiness, the existing evidence only weakly supports this causal claim: Research in psychology, economics, and neuroscience exploring the benefits of charitable giving has been largely correlational, leaving open the question of whether giving causes greater happiness. In this chapter, we have two primary aims. First, we review the evidence linking charitable behavior and happiness. We present research from a variety of samples (adults, children and primates) and methods (correlational and experimental) demonstrating that happier people give more, that giving indeed causes increased happiness, and that these two relationships may operate in a circular fashion. Second, we consider whether advertising these benefits of charitable giving – asking people to give in order to be happy – may have the perverse consequence of decreasing charitable giving, crowding out intrinsic motivations to give by corrupting a purely social act with economic considerations.

Suggested Citation

Anik, Lalin and Aknin, Lara B. and Norton, Michael I. and Dunn, Elizabeth W., Feeling Good About Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior (August 6, 2009). Harvard Business School Marketing Unit Working Paper No. 10-012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1444831 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1444831

Lalin Anik

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-243-7697 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty-research/directory/lalin-anik/

Lara B. Aknin

University of British Columbia ( email )

2136 West Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia BC V6T 1Z4
Canada

Michael I. Norton (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Elizabeth W. Dunn

University of British Columbia - Department of Psychology ( email )

2329 West Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia BC V6T 1Z4
Canada

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