Getting the Most Out of Giving:Pursuing Concretely-Framed Prosocial Goals Maximizes Happiness

Getting the Most Out of Giving:Pursuing Concretely-Framed Prosocial Goals Maximizes Happiness

By Jennifer Aaker, Michael Norton, Melanie Rudd
2013Working Paper No. 2129

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.

Keywords
happiness, goal framing, affective forecasting