There are Free Lunches Statement of Intentions

There are Free Lunches: Behavioral Clues to Live Happy in the Economic World is a blog that intends to present updated and relevant information about the "hidden" and only recently uncovered dimensions of the economic science: the behavioral factors. With this blog we intend to promote in Europe and in the rest of the World, the top research articles and perspectives on behavioral economics, decision making, consumer behavior, and general behavioral science. We aim to be followed by journalists, academics, managers, civil servants, and everyone who wishes to improve their daily interaction with the economic world and consequently, their lives' happiness.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Principle 2: Help Others Instead of Yourself

In case you don’t know human beings are the most social animal on our planet and many scientists believe that this “hypersociality” is what caused our brains to triple in size in just two million years. Given how deeply and profoundly social we are, it isn’t any wonder that the quality of our social relationships is a strong source of happiness: almost anything we can do to improve our connections with others tends to improve our happiness as well, and that includes spending money. Researchers asked a nationally representative sample of Americans to rate their happiness and to report how much they spend in a typical month on (1) bills and expenses, (2) gifts for themselves, (3) gifts for others, and (4) donations to charity. The first two categories were summed to create a personal spending composite, and the latter two categories were summed to create a prosocial spending composite. Results showed that although personal spending was unrelated to happiness, people who devoted more money to prosocial spending were happier, even after controlling for their income. These results were replied in other experiments and the benefits of prosocial spending appear to be cross-cultural manifesting themselves with students attending universities in so distance places such as Canada and Uganda. The emotional rewards of prosocial spending are also detectable at the neural level. Participants in an MRI were given the opportunity to donate money to a local food bank. Choosing to give money away, or even being forced to do so, led to activation in brain areas typically associated with receiving rewards. The strong and consistent benefits for well-being promoted by prosocial spending are explained by the fact that strong social relationships are universally critical for happiness, and prosocial spending has a surprisingly powerful impact on social relationships. Research shows that receiving a gift from a romantic partner has a significant impact on college’s feelings about the likelihood of success of the relationship. Besides that, it also provides an opportunity for positive self-presentation, which has been shown to produce benefits for mood. Although the benefits of prosocial spending are robust across cultures and methodologies, they are invisible to many people. Most of the people make an “affective forecasting error”: they think that spending money on themselves makes them happier than spending on others. Research has showed that it is not quite exactly the case.

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