Can Generosity Increase Well-Being? Identifying Experimental Effects and Possible Mediators

Student Author(s)

Hanna Newbound
Alexa Rencis

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren

Document Type


Event Date



Studies suggest that threats to meaning elicit negative and defensive reactions, but sometimes can result in positive actions such as prosocial behaviors. By living up to the cultural standards of virtue and morality, those who behave prosocially should perceive their lives to be more meaningful. In this study, we seek to extend the research on virtuous behavior and meaning by assessing the extent to which other-orientation mediates the link between virtuous behavior and meaning in life. This assessment is derived from findings that connect relationships to meaning and meaning to prosocial behavior (Van Tongeren et al., in press). Putting others before the self is a large part of relationships, and therefore we expect other-orientation to have a mediation role in the link between prosociality and meaning in life. Participants were randomly assigned to engage in either a virtuous action that involved other-orientation, or a neutral condition. In the virtuous condition, participants were given 10 raffle tickets on which they could write their own name, or they could allocate some or all of their tickets to friends. In the neutral condition, participants were told to only enter their own names into the raffle. After the donation opportunity task, participants completed various measures and debriefed. Results revealed that generous donation behavior increased well-being relative to not donating. This research highlights an additional way for people to find or increase well-being.


This research was supported by a Towsley Research Scholars Fellowship.

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