The science of happiness

I was building up the feeds on my iGoogle page tonight (in an attempt to reduce the amount of email newsletters I read) when I stumbled across the blog of Evan Davis, the BBC business journalist.

Whilst the blog’s not been updated for a while (to be fair he’s a busy chap), he has a fascinating link to this article on LiveScience, published a while ago.

The headline is “Key to Happiness: Give Away Money“.

Here’s an interesting quote from the latter part of the article, which helps make a personal case for philanthropy and corporate responsibility work.

“A person apparently doesn’t need to drop thousands of dollars on others to reap a gleeful reward.

In another experiment, the researchers gave college students a $5 or $20 bill, asking them to spend the money by that evening. Half the participants were instructed to spend the money on themselves, and the remaining students to spend on others.

Participants who spent the windfall on others — which included toys for siblings and meals eaten with friends — reported feeling happier at the end of the day than those who spent the money on themselves.

If as little as $5 spent on others could produce a surge in happiness on a given day, why don’t people make these changes? In another study of more than 100 college students, the researchers found that most thought personal spending would make them happier than prosocial spending.

“Often people, at some implicit level, have this idea that ‘buying these things is going to make me happier,'” Ahuvia said. “It does make them momentarily happy,” he added, but the warm feelings are short-lived.”

Of course I’m not saying here that corporate responsibility is about just about giving money away. But it is about doing things for others, alongside self interest.

So it’s good to know that working in the area means you have a better chance of being happy than say, investment banking.


  1. The simplest thing-giving-can contribute the most to happiness and health. If it works for the individual, then it must also have impact on the organization. Thanks for writing this interesting article.

  2. I am so happy to see some more research coming out on this topic. I agree with Amanya that it must be good for business too. I write about philanthropy for business, but I come from an organizational psychology background, so I am thrilled to see more people writing about this. In fact, I tweeted about the post.

  3. It would be interesting to know if the happiness also grows with 'more' money giveway. In short, how much one should give others and what criteria you need to follow while giving – is more important than giving. There are great scriptures around 'giving' in Vedas and so to speak – the right framework exist. I totally agree with basic theme of giving however it is our duty as a giver to ensure that giving also creates happiness for others (takers). And that is what I mean by closing the circle of happiness. Not all giving makes the taker happy in real sense. The whole equation needs to be examined while this exchange occurs. For instance, look at the amount UN gives to the developing nations and examine the number of real success stories resulting from it. I am not criticizing the efforts here but to yeild the total happiness, one must involve all the entities (taker and all allied organizations) with the right intentions wisely. Often given money is considered as a free money or extra money of someone else so why bother syndrome floats in the system. Corruption in such case is another outcome. But again, dont stop giving, just ensure that you follow the basic framework of thoughts, examination, and wise decisions and actions before you give. Money given is always earned somewhere first. Let us not forget that!

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