Preprint: Does Spending Money on Others Promote Happiness? A Registered Replication Report

New very well conducted work on happiness out:

Aknin, L. B., Dunn, E. W., Proulx, J. D. E., Lok, I., & Norton, M. I. (2020, February 24). Does Spending Money on Others Promote Happiness?: A Registered Replication Report.


Research indicates that spending money on others—prosocial spending—leads to greater happiness than spending money on oneself (e.g., Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2008; 2014). These findings have received widespread attention because they offer insight into why people engage in costly prosocial behavior, and what constitutes happier spending more broadly. However, most studies on prosocial spending (like most research on the emotional benefits of generosity) utilized small sample sizes (n<100/cell). In light of new, improved standards for evidentiary value, we conducted high-powered registered replications of the central paradigms used in prosocial spending research. In Experiment 1, 712 students were randomly assigned to make a purchase for themselves or a stranger in need and then reported their happiness. As predicted, participants assigned to engage in prosocial (vs. personal) spending reported greater momentary happiness. In Experiment 2, 1950 adults recalled a time they spent money on themselves or someone else and then reported their current happiness; contrary to predictions, participants in the prosocial spending condition did not report greater happiness than those in the personal spending condition. Because low levels of task engagement may have produced these null results, we conducted a replication with minor changes designed to increase engagement; in this Experiment 3 (N = 5,199), participants who recalled a prosocial (vs. personal) spending memory reported greater happiness but differences were small. Taken together, these studies support the hypothesis that spending money on others does promote happiness, but demonstrate that the magnitude of the effect depends on several methodological features.