Getting the Most Out of Giving: Pursuing Concretely-Framed Prosocial Goals Maximizes Happiness
Stanford Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 2129
67 Pages Posted: 4 May 2013
Date Written: April 30, 2013
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.
Keywords: happiness, prosocial behavior, goal framing, affective forecasting
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