How To Be More Giving as an Organization- What This Cross-Cultural Study On Prosocial Behavior Tells us About Well Being and Financial Spending | Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

February 3, 2021by Anupriya Kukreja
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Summary of:

Aknin, L.B., Barrington-Leigh, C.P., Dunn, E.W., Helliwell, J.F., Burns, J., Biswas-Diener, R., Kemeza, I., Nyende, P., Ashton-James, C.E., Norton, M.I. (2013). Prosocial spending and well-being: cross-cultural evidence for a psychological universal. J Pers Soc Psychology, 104(4), 635-52. doi: 10.1037/a0031578

Background & Theory

Altruism and prosocial behavior are constructs that have been widely studied in Psychology. However, they have rarely been studied across cultures or comparatively. Classical economics also places a great emphasis on maximizing self-interest as a means for gratification, however, the authors of this research have attempted to understand the emotional benefits of financial giving, as opposed to spending on oneself, with a special focus on global cultures.

Research Question(s)

The authors attempted to answer the following question:

    1. Does prosocial spending increase subjective well-being more than personal spending across cultures?

Methods

In order to answer this question, the authors conducted two studies. In the first, they ran a correlation test on data from 136 countries as part of the Gallup World Poll. The GWP asked respondents whether they had donated money to charity in the past month and then administered the subjective well-being scale.

The second study was experimental in nature, where results were compared between two extremely different cultures- Canada and Uganda, and participants were assigned to two conditions- spending on themselves versus spending on others. Here, 627 students participated- 140 from Canada and 489 from Uganda. They were randomly assigned to recall a recent purchase in which they spent either ten thousand Ugandan Shillings or twenty Canadian dollars on themselves or someone else.

After recalling their spending experience in detail, they were asked to report their happiness on the Subjective 8 Happiness Scale.

Results

In the first study, the authors found that the relationship between prosocial spending and subjective well-being was positive in 122 out of 136 countries.

In the second study, the researchers found a significant difference in happiness levels in subjects who were made to recall a purchase made for someone else versus those who were asked a recall a purchase made for themselves. The authors also found that both Ugandans and Canadians felt happier after spending money on others.

How This Translates for the Workplace

  • Encourage a culture of giving: The company can give rewards and recognition to its employees in the form of year-end bonuses to special remittances, as these gestures also work as incentives for retention. The overall collective happiness levels that are improved due to this exercise act as deterrents against conflict formation in the first place. Further, a culture of giving can also be nudged by the top management. For example, on holiday celebrations or during team building activities, employees from winning teams can be allowed to donate to their favorite charity as rewards. Organizations can also curate a catalog of trusted charities for their employees to donate to routinely.

  • Alternative forms of rewards: These rewards need not always be monetary, but can also encompass training that triggers personal growth and transformation. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution, which are essential and empowering 21st century skills. Contact us to get in touch!

  • Walk the talk and donate to causes/ engage in CSR spending: A workplace consists of a group of human beings, and hence the results of this study also apply to prosocial behavior at an organizational level. Paying close and careful attention to where company funds are being allocated under corporate social responsibility schemes can lead to a well planned, intentioned, and curated form of giving that can elevate the company’s collective happiness and well-being levels. This can make the organizational culture more open to giving and collaboration.

Anupriya Kukreja

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