Prosocial spending and well-being: Cross-cultural evidence for a psychological universal.

Our findings suggest that the reward experienced from helping others may be deeply ingrained in human nature, emerging in diverse cultural and economic contexts

Lara B. Aknin; Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh; Elizabeth W. Dunn; John F. Helliwell; Justine Burns; Robert Biswas-Diener; Imelda Kemeza; Paul Nyende; Claire E. Ashton-James; Michael I. Norton


Scholarcy highlights

  • This research provides the first support for a possible psychological universal: Human beings around the world derive emotional benefits from using their financial resources to help others
  • The countries we studied differ on numerous dimensions, we were primarily interested in the key dimension of national-level income, which has been shown to play a critical moderating role in shaping the relationship between individuals’ wealth and well-being within countries, as discussed earlier; we examined the emotional benefits of prosocial spending among individuals from countries with various ranges of income, extending previous research by examining the impact of prosocial behavior around the world
  • Using bootstrapping analyses suggested by Preacher and Hayes, we found that the effect sizes for both the Subjective Happiness Scale and life satisfaction measure were positive and the indirect mediation model 95% confidence interval did not cross zero: SHS effect size estimate .09, .95% CI, and life satisfaction effect size estimate .25, .95% CI
  • The robustness of this mechanism is supported by our finding that people experience emotional benefits from sharing their financial resources with others in countries where such resources are plentiful, and in impoverished countries where scarcity might seem to limit the possibilities to reap the gains from giving to others
  • Following Norenzayan and Heine’s recommendations for establishing psychological universals, we used a strategy of converging evidence, conducting correlational analyses across a vast array of the world’s countries and using experimental methodology within four countries that differ along our key dimension of income
  • We used experimental methodology and narrowed our focus to two countries, Canada and Uganda. These two counties differ substantially in terms of our key variable of interest, per capita income, as well as frequency of prosocial spending
  • In highlighting the potential universality of emotional benefits stemming from prosocial spending, the present research adds to the chorus of recent interdisciplinary findings documenting the importance of generosity for human well-being

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