When and why is helping others good for well-being? The role of belief in reciprocity and conformity to society's expectations

Cristina Oarga*, Olga Stavrova, Detlef Fetchenhauer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

This research investigates the relation between informal help and subjective well-being and its underlying mechanisms using a cross-national perspective. We focus on two potential mechanisms derived from the self-determination theory and conformity to the social norms literature. From the standpoint of self-determination theory, helping others is good for well-being if it is intrinsically motivated, rather than driven by the expectation of reciprocity. On the other hand, from the perspective of the conformity literature, helping others is associated with a higher well-being when it is linked to the benefits of social conformity, such as social approval. We tested these hypotheses using the data from a total of 23 countries. The results provided support for both mechanisms. First, we found that the lower individuals' beliefs in reciprocity are, the stronger is the positive effect of self-reported helping behavior on their well-being. Second, helping behavior was more strongly related to life satisfaction in countries where providing help represents a strong social norm (measured with two different cultural indicators). We conclude that both individual- and culture-level mechanisms account for the relation between prosocial behavior and well-being. Copyright (c) 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-254
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • prosocial behavior
  • subjective well-being
  • intrinsic motivation
  • reciprocity
  • social norms
  • cross-national research
  • SELF-DETERMINATION THEORY
  • PROSOCIAL MOTIVATION
  • SOCIAL-INFLUENCE
  • PEOPLE HAPPY
  • HAPPINESS
  • BEHAVIOR
  • ESTEEM
  • NORMS
  • LIFE
  • RELIGIOSITY

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