Getting the Most Out of Giving: Concretely Framing a Prosocial Goal Maximizes Happiness

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Forthcoming

Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 14-12

60 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2014

See all articles by Melanie Rudd

Melanie Rudd

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business

Jennifer Aaker

Stanford University - Graduate School of Business

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

Date Written: April 11, 2014

Abstract

Across six field and laboratory experiments, participants assigned a more concretely-framed prosocial goal (e.g., making someone smile or increasing recycling) felt happier and reported creating greater personal happiness 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 or saving the environment). Moreover, mediation analyses revealed that this effect was driven by differences in the size of the gap between participants’ expectations and reality. Compared to those who pursued an abstractly-framed prosocial goal, those who pursued 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 happiness. Evidence that participants are 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, is also presented.

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: Concretely Framing a Prosocial Goal Maximizes Happiness (April 11, 2014). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Forthcoming; Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 14-12. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2424103

Melanie Rudd

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business ( email )

Houston, TX 77204-6021
United States

Jennifer Lynn Aaker (Contact Author)

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
60
Abstract Views
814
rank
356,587
PlumX Metrics