Feeling Good About Giving: The Benefits (And Costs) Of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior

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Executive Summary

While lay intuitions and pop psychology suggest that helping others leads to higher levels of happiness, the existing evidence only weakly supports this causal claim: Research in psychology, economics, and neuroscience exploring the benefits of charitable giving has been largely correlation, leaving open the question of whether giving causes greater happiness. In this paper, the authors have two primary aims. First, they review the evidence linking charitable behavior and happiness. Second, they consider whether advertising these benefits of charitable giving - asking people to give in order to be happy - may have the perverse consequence of decreasing charitable giving, crowding out intrinsic motivations.

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