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

See all articles by Melanie Rudd

Melanie Rudd

Independent

Jennifer Aaker

Stanford University - Graduate School of Business

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

Date Written: April 30, 2013

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.

Keywords: happiness, prosocial behavior, goal framing, affective forecasting

Suggested Citation

Rudd, Melanie and Aaker, Jennifer Lynn and Norton, Michael I., Getting the Most Out of Giving: Pursuing Concretely-Framed Prosocial Goals Maximizes Happiness (April 30, 2013). Stanford Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 2129. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2259318 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2259318

Melanie Rudd (Contact Author)

Independent

No Address Available

Jennifer Lynn Aaker

Stanford University - Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
64
Abstract Views
958
rank
353,262
PlumX Metrics