The link between money, spending and happiness is well-established, but scientists are still investigating all the links. In the new study cited by the article, the 788 participants played a game and won money as a prize, from which some of the earnings could be donated to charity. The aim of the study was to find out whether there were differences in happiness when people could choose to spend the money on themselves as opposed to on others (also known as ‘prosocial spending’), and whether a ‘default’ position of how the money should be spent altered their happiness levels.
The results of the study found that:
not having to choose to donate the money made people happier than if they had to make the decision themselves – likely because they did not experience uncertainty or regret about the decision.
where the default option was to keep the money for themselves, those who chose to donate the money had the greatest happiness boost of all.
The study concluded that prosocial spending does make us happier, and this conclusion is backed up by the evidence to date. For instance, another study found that putting coins in someone else’s parking meter made people happier than putting coins in their own meter, even when they did not know whom the good deed was benefiting.
According to findings from neuroscience, this is because “the same reward centers in the brain are activated when a person receives a personal reward as when a person acts to benefit others”. So the next time you feel a little bored and want to do a fun activity, instead of online shopping for yourself, perhaps you could try looking for something a friend or family member would enjoy.
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