1 Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior Lalin Anik Lara B. Aknin Michael I. Norton Elizabeth W. Dunn Working Paper 10-012 Copyright © 2009 by Lalin Anik, Lara B. Aknin, Michael I. Norton, and Elizabeth W. Dunn Working papers are in draft form. This working pa per is distributed for pu rposes of comment and discussion only. It may not be reproduced without pe rmission of the copyright holder. Copies of working papers are available from the author.
2 Feeling Good about Giving 1 Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior Lalin Anik, Harvard Business School Lara B. Aknin, University of British Columbia Michael I. Norton, Harvard Business School Elizabeth W. Dunn, University of British Columbia
3 Feeling Good about Giving 2 Abstract While lay intuitions and pop psychology suggest that to higher levels of helping others leads happiness, the existing evidence on ly weakly supports this causal claim: Research in psychology, economics, and neuroscience exploring the bene fits of charitable giving has been largely correlational, leaving open the question of whether giving causes greater happiness. In this chapter, we have two primary aims. First, we review the evidence linking charitable behavior and happiness. We present research from a vari ety of samples (adults, children and primates) and methods (correlational and experimental) dem onstrating that happier people give more, that giving indeed causes increased happiness, and th at these two relationships may operate in a circular fashion. Second, we consider whether ad vertising these benefits of charitable giving – asking people to give in order to be happy – may have the perv erse consequence of decreasing charitable giving, crowding out intrinsic motivati ons to give by corruptin g a purely social act with economic considerations.
4 Feeling Good about Giving 3 eatest health crisis of 600 years and they want People see a world out of whack. They see the gr to do the right thing, but they’re not sure what that is. (RED) is about doing what you enjoy and doing good at the same time. —Bono, “Ethical Shopping: The Red Revolution,” Belfast Telegraph , January 27, 2006. Helping others takes countless forms, from gi ving money to charity to helping a stranger dig his car out of the snow, and springs from countless motivations, from deep-rooted empathy to a more calculated desire for public recognition. have identified a host Indeed, social scientists benefits for the giver, whether economically via of ways in which charitable behavior can lead to ang 1985), socially via signaling one’s wealth tax breaks (Clotfelter, 1985, 1997; Reece & Ziesch or status (Becker 1974; Glazer & Konrad 1996; Griskevicius et al ., 2007) or psychologically via experiencing well-being from helping (A ndreoni, 1989, 1990; Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2008). Charitable organizations have traditionally capi talized on all of these motivations for giving, tion-laden advertising to pushing governments to from attempting to engage consumers with emo offer tax incentives. The psychological bene fits of giving are unde rscored by Bono’s quote above, referring to the Product (RED) campaign, in which a portion of profits from consumer purchases of luxury goods is donated to the Gl obal Fund for AIDS relief: Giving feels good, so why not advertise the benefits of “self-interested giving,” allo wing people to experience that good feeling while increasing contributi ons to charity at the same time? In this chapter, we have two primary aims. First, we explore whether claims about the benefits of helping are in fact justified: While many appeals for charity center on the notion that helping makes the giver happy, a relatively small amount of research exists to support this causal claim. We review evidence that happy people gi ve more, that giving is associated with and
5 Feeling Good about Giving 4 may run in a circular fashion, such that happy causes happiness, and that these relationships ier, then give more, and so on. Second, however, we consider people give more, then feel happ the possible negative implications of advertising these well-being benefi ts in an effort to increase charitable behavior: When people start to give for “selfish” reasons – in order to feel good – such extrinsic motivations may crowd out intrinsic instead of altruistic reasons – to help others – might increase in the short term as people seek motivation to help; as a result, helping behavior benefits, but decrease in the l ong-term as people’s inherent inte rest in the welfare of others declines. Happier People Give More One of the first experimental studies to de monstrate that happiness increases charitable behavior was conducted by Isen and Levin (1972), who showed that afte r experiencing positive events (such as receiving cookies yphone), participants were more , or finding a dime left in a pa likely to help others: Thus, people who felt good we re more likely to provide help. Replicating this effect in a different context, Aderman (1972) induced either an elat ed or depressed state by having participants read statements designed to induce these moods. Participants in a positive mood were more likely to help with a favor to the researcher during th e experiment, and even promised to help by participating in a second ex periment. Other positive mood states have also been shown to increase altruism; feelings of competence, for example, have been shown to increase helping and volunteering behavior (H arris & Huang 1973; Kazdin & Bryan 1971), as has succeeding on tasks (Isen, 1970). Young children exhibit similar effects of mood on helping. Rosenhan, Underwood, and Moore (1974) randomly assigned second and third graders to positive or negative mood conditions by having them reminisce about mood appropriate memories. To strengthen the mood
6 Feeling Good about Giving 5 ese memories and then think about them once induction, children were asked to talk about th t (self gratification) again. Children were then allowed to have some candy from a treasure ches wished (altruistic behavior). While both happy and and also give money to other students if they sad children ate more candy than those in the control condition, only happy children gave more money away to classmates. These results also sugge st that prosocial behavi or may not necessitate engaged both in more self-grati self-sacrifice, as happy children fication and more altruistic behavior – like those consumers who buy Product (RED) iPods and enjoy the product while also her positive mood states – such as the feeling of giving to charity. Similar to results for adults, ot success – are related to prosocial behavior in children (Isen, Horn, & Rosenhan, 1973). While the majority of research has expl ored the impact of happiness on prosocial behavior via mood inductions, recent extensions have examined how naturally occurring moods influence helping behavior. Wang and Graddy (2 008) suggest that happy people are both more emotionally capable to help others and have mo re optimistic personalities, fostering charitable ls’ self-rated happiness as an giving behavior. Using individua indicator of psychological of happiness affected re ligious giving, but not inclination to donate, they found that a feeling emmed from the association of happiness and religious giving secular giving, which may have st in people’s minds. Konow and Earley (2008) also argued that happier people give more because they are fueled by their positive emotions. In th e context of a dictator game, where a proposer divided a fixed endowment between himself and on , individuals who were e other (the recipient) happier at the beginning of the game were more likel y to give at least a doll ar to their partner. Positive moods, whether experimentally induced or naturally occurring, have also been shown to facilitate helpful behavior in th e workplace. Forgas, Dunn, and Granland (2008) induced a positive, neutral, or negative mood in sales staff at a department store by engineering
7 Feeling Good about Giving 6 e (posing as a customer) that an interaction with a confederat varied in pleasantness. Next, another confederate approached the sales staff a nd requested help finding an item that did not in fact exist. While experienced staff members we re largely impervious to the effects of mood, inexperienced staff provided more help—by trying to find the item, suggesting alternatives, and devoting more time to helping the customer —than did those in a neutral mood. Converging evidence for the benefits of positive mood on pros ocial behavior in the workplace comes from research on naturally occurring mood; in a study by Williams and Shiaw (1999), employees who reported being in a good mood were more likely to display organizationa l citizenship behaviors that were not part of their formal job requirements. Taken together, the existing evidence suggests that happier people do indeed help more in a variety of contexts. Studies using random a ssignment to experiment ally induce positive mood have provided important evidence that happiness causes increased helping behavior. Supporting occurring positive moods have also been shown the external validity of these findings, naturally to facilitate prosocial behavior. While we have focused on the impact of positive mood on giving, however, another well-documented area of inquiry has documented the impact of negative mood on helping as well, a seemi ng contradiction (see Batson, 1987; 1991). For example, Cialdini et al. (1987) showed that wa tching another person suffer a mild electric shock motivates helping in an observer through a sens e of heightened empathy and increased personal sadness. Similarly, Small and Verrochi (in press) found that people were more sympathetic and likely to donate when charitable appeals contai n victims with sad expr essions, and the sadness experienced on the part of the donor mediates th e effect of emotion expression on sympathy. We suggest that a key difference in the way these two research streams have operationalized mood may account for these seemingly disparate finding s. Research exploring the impact of positive
8 Feeling Good about Giving 7 ness – whether incidental as with finding moods on helping has generally focused on happi ecific cause or individual in money, or global as with overall well-being – unrelated to the sp tly tied to the victim: “I need of charity, as opposed to negative mood direc feel good in general, and so am going to give” rather than “I feel badly for that person, and so am going to give.” Future research should manipulate both factors independently to examine the interplay of positive and negative mood on giving. The research reviewed thus far has examin ed how moods – both positive and negative – cause people to give, as well as exploring the consequences of this behavior for the victim (i.e. whether they received help or not). This wo rk, however, only addresse s one direction of the causal arrow between mood and prosocial behavi or. Below we review the evidence in the opposite direction. That is, does giving make people happy? Giving Makes People Happier Dialogue on whether prosocial behavior increa ses well-being dates as far back as ancient Greece, where Aristotle argued that the goal of life was to achieve “eudaemonia,” which is closely tied to modern conceptions of happiness. According to Aristotle, eudaemonia is more than just a pleasurable hedonic experience; e udaemonia is a state in which an individual experiences happiness from the succ essful performance of their mo ral duties. In recent years, popular opinion, self-help gurus and community organizations ha ve endorsed the notion that helping others has mood benefits. Although thes e claims sometimes outpace the evidence base, a growing body of research pr ovides methodologically diverse support for the hedonic benefits of generosity.
9 Feeling Good about Giving 8 tic resonance imaging (fMRI) evidence shows At the most basic level, functional magne implicated in the that giving money to charity leads to similar brain activity in regions udy conducted by Harbaugh, Mayr, and Burghart experience of pleasure and reward. In a st (2007) neural activity was recorded to split a one-hundred dollar while participants decided how sum between themselves and a local food bank. Re sults showed that dona tions of the original one-hundred dollar sum to the food ntral striatum, a brain region bank led to activation in the ve associated with representing the value of a range of rewarding stimuli, from cocaine to art to n & Goel, 2004; see El liott, Friston, & Dolan, attractive faces (Aharon et al., 2001; Vartania at giving (in the form of charit able donations) is inherently 2000). Thus, these results suggest th rewarding. At a very different level of analysis – fr om brain to nation – Meier and Stutzer (2008) demonstrated that volunteering increases li fe satisfaction, through use of the German German households. Consistent with other Socioeconomic Panel, a longitudinal study of correlational studies of voluntee ring and well-being, they found that higher levels of volunteer overall life satisfaction. This study, however, is work were associated with higher levels of unique in that it examines th e relationship between happiness and volunteer work around the collapse of the German Democratic Republic , providing a quasi-experimental design. Specifically, by looking at data coll e Berlin wall but prior to the ected shortly after the fall of th German reunification, a time when volunteering opportunities dropped dramatically in Eastern Germany, happiness of East Germans can be comp ared to a control group who experienced no change in their volunteer status. Using this design, the authors ar e able to conclude that helping others increases well-being. While this study lacks true random assignment, it does offer
10 Feeling Good about Giving 9 r work on well-being in a large, nationally intriguing evidence of the impact of voluntee representative dataset. Additionally, some experimental work hints at a causal relationship between giving and happiness. For example, when Field, Hernandez-Reif, Quintino, Schanberg, and Kuhn (1998) group of retired senior citizens to give infants a massage three times a week for asked a volunteer rienced less anxiety and depression, as well as improved health three weeks, these seniors expe rther support for a causal link comes from recent and a reduction in stress-related hormones. Fu ich shows that simply asking people to work by Lyubomirsky, Tkach, and Sheldon (2004), wh commit random acts of kindness can significantly incr ease happiness levels for several weeks. Specifically, in their investigation, Lyubomirsky and colleagues randomly assigned students to a no-treatment control group or to an experimental group, in which students were asked to commit five random acts of kindness a week for six week s. As predicted, students who engaged in random acts of kindness were signifi cantly happier than controls. Finally, our own recent research suggests that altruistic financial behavior, such as gift giving and charitable donations, may promote happiness (Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2008). In an initial study, we asked a nationally representative sample of Am ericans to rate their general happiness and provide monthly estimates of personal and prosocial spending. Specifically, participants were asked to re port their annual househol d income and general happiness level and to estimate how much they spent in a typi cal month on (1) bills/expenses, (2) gifts for themselves, (3) gifts for others, and (4) donations to charity. We summed categories 1 and 2 for an index of personal spending and categories 3 and 4 for an index of prosocial spending. Lastly, participants reported their general happiness on a one item happiness scale (Abdel-Khalek, 2006) which simply asked participants "Do you feel ha ppy, in general?” Analyses revealed that
11 Feeling Good about Giving 10 ial spending reported greater happiness, whereas individuals who devoted more money to prosoc personal spending was unrelated to happiness. Even controlling for income, higher prosocial greater happiness; income had an independent and similar spending was associated with association with happiness. While these results pr ovide a first glimpse of the association between prosocial spending and happiness in the population, the correlati onal nature of this study restrains discussion of causal claims. Therefore, we also used an experimental de sign to test the casual claim that spending money on others leads to higher happiness levels than spending money on oneself (Dunn et al., ly assigned to spend money in a prosocial 2008). Our hypothesis was that participants random fashion would be happier at the end of the day than others assigned to spend money on person during the morning hours (approximately themselves. Participants were approached in 10am – noon) in public places and asked to report ed their baseline happine ss level. After doing so, participants were randomly assigned to one of four spending conditions, receiving either five or twenty dollars to sp end on themselves or others. Specifi in the personal cally, participants use their windfall on a bill, expense or gift for themselves, spending condition were asked to while participants in the prosocial spending c ondition were asked to spend the money on a gift for someone else or donation to charity. All participants were asked to spend the money in line with their assigned spending direct ion by 5pm that day. Participants were then contacted in the evening hours (between 6pm-8pm) on the phone by a research assistant to complete a follow-up survey which assessed their current d, participants asked to spend happiness level. As predicte their windfall in a prosocial fashi on were happier at the end of the day than were participants in the personal spending condition. Interestingly, the amount of m oney people were given did not influence how happy they were that evening, suggesting that how people spent their money was
12 Feeling Good about Giving 11 how much money they received. Theref more important than ore, this experimental study hers leads to higher happiness aim that spending money on ot provides support for the causal cl e results suggest that the spending amount need than spending money on oneself. Moreover, thes not be large to facilitate positive hedonic gains, as prosocial purchases made with as little as five to boost happiness levels. dollars were sufficient Does Happiness Run in a Circular Motion? The streams of research reviewed above – re, and that giving that happy people give mo Is there a positive feedback loop between makes people happy – beg an obvious question: search on volunteering and pros ocial behavior has suggested happiness and giving? Previous re that happier people are more likely to engage in these activities and subsequently experience higher happiness levels from doing so (e.g., T hoits & Hewitt, 2001; Pi liavin, 2003). Thus, we explored whether the link between happiness and prosocial spending runs in a circular motion, spending makes people happie r, and in turn, more such that recollections of previous prosocial likely to engage in prosocial spending in the future. To investigate this question, we asked a sample of students to think back and describe the last time they spent either twen ty or one hundred dollars on either themselves or someone else. After describing this experience, each participant was asked to re port their happines s. Next, each participant was given the opportunity ng behavior they thought would to select the future spendi make them happiest from the four conditions presented in the experimental study described above (five or twenty do llars to spend on themse lves or others). Our hypothesis was that recalling a prosocia l spending experience would make people happier than recalling a persona l spending experience – regard less of how much money was
13 Feeling Good about Giving 12 ppiness would lead pa rticipants to select spent – and that this boost in ha a prosocial spending experiences influenced ecalling specific spending choice in the future. To investigate whether r happiness ratings of participants in the four recall conditions. happiness levels, we compared the As expected, participants randomly assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else were ants assigned to reca ll a purchase made for themselves. We significantly happier than particip ould shape people’s future spending choice, such also predicted that this boost in happiness w would be more likely to that happier participants spend prosocially in the future. To investigate whether this happiness boost led pa rticipants to select a prosocial spending choice in the future, we used the purchase amount (t purchase target (oneself or wenty or one-hundred dollars), others), and happiness to predict future spending choices. In line with our hypothesis, happiness was the only significant predictor of future spending choice, sugge sting that par ticipants made happier by recalling a previous purchase for some one else were significantly more likely to re. Further, mediationa l analyses confirm that choose to engage in prosocial spending in the futu other-oriented spending memories onl ending choices to the extent y fostered future prosocial sp that these recollections increase happiness levels in the interim. These data confirmed our hypothesis that prosocial spending and happiness fuel each other in a circular fashion. By asking participants to recall a previous time they spent money on others, we were able to observe that the prosoc ial spending recollections led to an increase in happiness. Furthermore, by allowing participan ts to make a future spending decision, we were able to show that this increase in happiness sh aped spending decisions, such that happier people were more likely to make to make prosocial spen ding choices in the future. In addition, we have recently shown that these effects hold cross-cult urally, with both North American and African
14 Feeling Good about Giving 13 e reciprocal links betw samples, offering preliminary evidence that th een giving and happiness may be a human universal. Will Increasing Awareness of the Benefits of Giving Lead to More, or Less, Giving? One implication of the research reviewed above is quite clear: If giving makes people happy, and happy people give more, then one means of increasing charitable donations is simply ppeal that self-interes ted giving can lead to to inform people of this loop, making a rational a ed that people erroneously believe that higher well-being. Indeed, Dunn et al. (2008) show er than spending money on others, suggesting spending money on themselves makes them happi that there is ample room for people to be “educated” to the contrary. Recently, many ngaged in efforts to link charit able donations with feel-good organizations appear to be e campaigns, as opposed to the classic campaigns involving images of in-need individuals designed to elicit sadness and guilt, as the quote with which we opened from Bono suggests “(RED) is about doing what you en joy and doing good at the same time.” And (RED) is far from alone in this messaging, as sloga ns from many of the largest char itable organizations reflect these feel-good impulses: the American Red Cro ss’s tells prospective blood donors that “the need is constant. The gratification is instan t,” CARE asks donors to “Help us empower women around the world” with the slogan “I am powerful” applying to both donors and recipients, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure asks each donor, “A re you inspired to save a life?” Enjoyment, instant gratification, empowerm ent, inspiration – all of th ese sentiments offer powerful emotional incentives fo r people to donate. At the same time, however, any social scie ntist knows the possibl e costs of tampering with behaviors that arise from intrinsic motivations, as ironic effects often stem from
15 Feeling Good about Giving 14 In an early demonstration, Lepp er, Greene, and Nisbett (1973) incentivizing such behaviors. ng” their interest – showed that rewarding children for their perf ormance – “overjustifyi undermined those children’s intr insic motivation to do well. Relatedly, Titmuss (1970) argued social utility of the act. More generally, that paying for blood donation would undermine the “crowding out” intrinsic motivati on through external incentives (s ee Frey & Jegen, 2001) carries the risk that incentivizing beha may move those behaviors from viors that are socially motivated the social realm into the economic realm, with sometimes unexpected – and detrimental – results. vior is motivated by altruistic impulses with Indeed, presenting people whose charitable beha self-interested appeals can be alienating (Nelson, Brunel, Supphellen, & Manchanda, 2006). What happens when social behaviors – lik e helping others – m ove into the economic realm? In one compelling demonstration, Gneezy and Rustichini (2000a) documented the ironic outcome that emerged when the owners of a ch ildcare center instituted fines for parents who increased were late to pick up their children. Lateness actually when fines were instituted; while most parents had made a good faith effort to ar rive on time when not doing so was rude to the owners of the center, the instit late an economic matter, with ution of fines made showing up parents simply calculating the cost s and benefits of tardiness. Most troubling, when the owners discontinued the fines, parents did not revert to their earlier behavi or, suggesting that when social markets are made economic, it may be difficult to change them back. The impact of switching from social to economic markets helps to expl ain some curious results in which people work harder for no money than for low pay (Gn eezy & Rustichini, 2000b). People are willing to engage in effort such as helping others or doing favors for them for social reasons; once money is introduced, however, people engage in cost-b enefit analysis, and small amounts of money are not sufficient to incentivize them to do the work they were willing to do for free for more
16 Feeling Good about Giving 15 where both social and economic incentives are altruistic reasons; moreover, mixed markets – present – look like economic mark ets, as though the mere whiff of monetary incentives corrupts social motivations (Heyman & Ariely, 2004). lly in the domain of charitable giving? How might these dynamics play out specifica While researchers have only recently devoted atte rly results suggest that ntion to this issue, ea mixing economic incentives with social incentives ma y have similar effects as in other domains. thought of money undermines peopl At a general level, the mere e’s motivation to engage in prosocial behavior (Vohs, Mea igations have demonstrated d, & Goode, 2006), and several invest centives with charitable givin g. For example, Falk (2007) the negative impact of mixing in ssible donors on their fre quency and amount of examined the impact of sending gifts to po donation. Small gifts increased donations by 17% and large gifts by 75%, but people who received large gifts were more likely to donate smaller amounts, while those who received no gift were most likely to donate large amounts; while only suggestive, these results imply that motivation to give. Two receiving gifts may crowd out some inherent investigations that explored the impact of matching donations – in which an employe r or other agency matches the amount of one’s donation to some charity – did increase people’s showed that matching likelihood of contributing (Kar lan & List, 2007; Meier, 2007). Importantly, however, Meier (2007) showed that while initial contribution rate s increased, contribution rates actually declined after the matching offer ended, lead ain, these results suggest that ing to a net loss in giving. Ag providing people with external incentives to give – a matching dona tion, or a gift – may undermine some of their intrinsic inte rest in giving in the longer term. But does advertising the mood benefits of ch aritable acts alter th e reasons and outcomes of donating? Specifically, we wondered whether the effects we demonstrated in Dunn et al.
17 Feeling Good about Giving 16 incentives to people’s reason for giving. In (2008) might be undermined by adding external e are aware that giving to others makes them short, we asked two related questions: If peopl happier, will they a) give more money and b) will this incentive undermine the happiness they receive from giving to others? In an initial test of this question, we asked a sample of over 1,000 New York Times , who had just read about our research demonstrating the link readers of the ns about their personal and prosocial spending between giving and happiness, to answer questio and their well-being. Compared to our other stud ies, respondents reported spending a relatively large amount on others (some 40% of their spendi ng). While this difference could be due to the sample (this was a much wealthier sample than would be typical, as approximately half the respondents reported earning $85,000+), an intriguing possibility – and one that deserves further investigation – is that people who read the article may have been spurred to devote more of their money to others versus themselves. ated: respondents who reported having spent Most importantly, our basic effect replic more so far that day on others reported great er happiness, whereas th ere was no relationship between spending on oneself and happiness. Thus, th e beneficial effects of giving still emerged, suggesting that becoming aware of the emoti onal benefits of prosocial spending did not undermine its impact on happiness. Because we c ould not follow up with these individuals, however, we do not know if this momentary increas e in charitable behavior would sustain over time, or – as with increases in donations when matching funds are available – self-interested giving might crowd out intrinsic motiva tion and decrease subsequent giving. Conclusion
18 Feeling Good about Giving 17 whether organizations that seek In this chapter, we explored to increase charitable giving by advertising the benefits of giving are 1) ma king claims supported by empirical research and most importantly 2) wise to make such claims. To the first point, the evidence we reviewed is quite supportive: Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive f eedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more). To the second point, however, the evidence is less clear. At minimum, charitable organizations should be concerned about the possi bility of crowding out their donors’ proclivity to donate them (via gifts, etc.) in the in the longer term by incentivizing short term. While offering donors monetary or material incentives for giving may undermine generosity in the long-term, our preliminary re search suggests that a dvertising the emotional benefits of prosocial behavior may leave thes e benefits intact and might even encourage individuals to give more. Future research – bot h laboratory and field st udies – is needed to disentangle the possible costs and be nefits of self-i nterested giving.
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