Monday, May 18, 2009

Key to Happiness: Give Away Money

According to a 20 March 2008 article by Jeanna Bryner in Live Science:

"Those incoming federal tax-rebate checks could do more than boost the economy. They might also boost your mood, with one caveat: You must spend the cash on others, not yourself.

New research reveals that when individuals dole out money for gifts for friends or charitable donations, they get a boost in happiness while those who spend on themselves get no such cheery lift. ...

Despite the benefits of "prosocial spending" on others, participants spent more than 10 times as much on personal items as they did on charitable options. The researchers note personal purchases included paying bills.

Statistical analyses revealed personal spending had no link with a person's happiness, while spending on others and charity was significantly related to a boost in happiness.

`Regardless of how much income each person made," Dunn said, "those who spent money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves did not.´ ...

In another experiment, the researchers gave college students a $5 or $20 bill, asking them to spend the money by that evening. Half the participants were instructed to spend the money on themselves, and the remaining students to spend on others.

Participants who spent the windfall on others — which included toys for siblings and meals eaten with friends — reported feeling happier at the end of the day than those who spent the money on themselves.

If as little as $5 spent on others could produce a surge in happiness on a given day, why don't people make these changes? In another study of more than 100 college students, the researchers found that most thought personal spending would make them happier than prosocial spending.

"Often people, at some implicit level, have this idea that 'buying these things is going to make me happier,'" Ahuvia said. "It does make them momentarily happy," he added, but the warm feelings are short-lived.

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