Give It Away

by Zoë Pollock

Dan Ariely says we're wrong when "we assume that we will be happiest and most motivated when we earn money to spend on ourselves." One experiment offered bank employees vouchers to donate to the charity of their choosing. They reported being happier:

The second experiment took the concept of prosocial incentives a step further by directly comparing people who were asked to spend money on themselves (a personal incentive) with those who were asked to purchase a gift for a teammate (a prosocial incentive). … While neither sales nor sports teams improved when people were given money to spend on themselves, Norton and his colleagues found vast improvements for those who engaged in prosocial spending.  While they were purchasing a gift for a teammate, they also became more interested in their teammate and were happier to help them further in multiple other ways.