Taking more time for oneself—such as by working less—often comes at the expense of having less money, and working to earn more money often cuts into free time. When attempting to maximize happiness, what should people do: give up money to have more time, or give up time to have more money? A lot of my prior and ongoing research explores whether, when and how prioritizing time over money is associated with greater happiness and life satisfaction. In some of this work, I have found evidence that many people are reluctant to choose time even if doing so can promote their welfare. Together with colleagues, I try to understand how to help people make more optimal decisions about their time use as well as to understand the unique role of time poverty in shaping the happiness that diverse groups of people gain from their days, weeks, months, and lives.
Link to my TedX talk of this research is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C36WaLcHpEY
Research suggests that spending money on others (prosocial spending) promotes happiness. With this past research as a springboard, some of my research examines the potential health benefits of helping others. After recruiting older adults who were previously diagnosed with high blood pressure, we gave each participant a modest amount of money to spend over the course of three weeks. Measuring their blood pressure before, during, and after they spent their study payments, my colleagues and I found that participants who were randomly assigned to spend money on others showed significant reductions in blood pressure, a benefit comparable in magnitude to starting a new aerobic exercise program. This work provides some of the strongest evidence to date that prosocial behavior can lead to clinically relevant benefits for physical health. Building on this research, I am working to understand how providing the opportunity to engage in prosocial behavior at work might reduce stress and improve the health and happiness of diverse employees--from consultants to social workers. I am also examining the health benefits of volunteering for diverse groups of people.
WEALTH & GIVING
While investigating the benefits of prosocial behavior, I came across a puzzling finding: the more people make, the less they donate to charity, at least, proportionately speaking. Given that prosocial behavior can provide a key lever for improving health and happiness, I seek to uncover psychological factors that can encourage charitable giving, particularly among those with the greatest capacity to give. I have conducted studies that show when appeals emphasize agency (the pursuit of personal goals) as compared to communion (the pursuit of shared goals), wealthier individuals donate more money to charity. Thus, tailored messages can encourage the wealthiest people in society to spend their money in more generous, and potentially more emotionally satisfying, ways. Building on this research, I am examining other theoretically grounded methods of promoting and sustaining financial generosity. For example, I am conducting several large scale field experiments that examine the benefits of sport and education programming on youth development and charitable giving intentions and behavior in collaboration with CHIMP (Charitable Impact Foundation). This research is funded by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada and the John Templeton Foundation. I am also looking at how conversations between parents and children shape and sustain parents' own charitable giving behavior. Lastly, I am examining the role of inequality in shaping prosocial behavior and happiness, and how to help people overcome their belief that their own hard work determines success in life, with possible benefits for philanthropic behaviors.
Our lab's work is funded by:
- Baylor University & the John Templeton Foundation
- Burke Family Foundation, Harvard University
- Global Management Initiative, UCLA Anderson School of Management
- Kok Education Institute
- Mind Brain and Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, Harvard University
- Perishing Square, Foundations of Human Behavior Initiative, Harvard University
- Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada