Getting the Most out of Giving: Concretely Framing a Presocial Goal Maximizes Happiness

Getting the Most out of Giving: Concretely Framing a Presocial Goal Maximizes Happiness

By
Melanie Rudd, Jennifer Aaker, Michael I. Norton
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. September
2014, Vol. 54, Pages 11-24

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.