UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

On financial generosity and well-being : where, when, and how spending money on others increases happiness Aknin, Lara Beth


Can money buy happiness? Recent research has shown that how people spend their money can have important consequences for their well-being. Specifically, research by Dunn, Aknin, and Norton (2008) demonstrated that spending money on others (prosocial spending) leads to higher levels of happiness than spending money on oneself (personal spending). This dissertation extends upon the work of Dunn et al. (2008) in five ways. First, Study 1 examines whether the mood benefits of prosocial spending are self-perpetuating by asking people to recall a previous personal or prosocial spending experience, report their happiness and make a future spending choice. Findings support the presence of a feedback loop; recalling a previous act of prosocial spending led to higher levels of happiness, and higher levels of happiness, in turn, predicted a willingness to engage in prosocial spending again. Second, Studies 2 - 4 test whether the relationship between prosocial spending and happiness requires positive social connection. Participants given the opportunity to spend on others by making a charitable donation (Study 2) or engaging in interpersonal spending (Studies 3 and 4) were happier when giving allowed for positive interpersonal connection with a beneficiary, but not when this connection was blocked or minimized. Third, Studies 5 and 6 examine whether perceived prosocial impact – the belief that one made a positive influence on someone else– represents another critical moderator of the emotional benefits of generous spending. Fourth, Studies 7, 8a, and 8b investigate whether the happiness benefits of prosocial spending exist outside North America and in other countries around the world. Using data from the Gallup World Poll, the relationship between prosocial spending and well-being was found to be positive in the majority of countries surveyed (Study7). Furthermore, participants in Canada and Uganda (Study 8a) and India (Study 8b) who recalled making a purchase for someone else reported higher levels of happiness than those who recalled making a purchase for themselves. Finally, Study 9 explores whether the emotional benefits of sharing one’s resources are detectable in children (< 24 months). Taken together, this research provides greater insight into the relationship between generous financial behavior and well-being.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International