Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Existing research demonstrates that prosocial behavior can lead to long lasting well-being, happiness, and health. Prosocial behavior also has meaningful organizational impact in terms of employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. However, theories of reciprocity styles suggest that individuals may experience differing benefits associated with prosocial behavior. For example, certain people termed "takers" who think about relationships as an exchange rather than a communal relationship may not receive these happiness effects. Given the potentially harmful ripple effects that takers can have on organizations, it’s important to understand if they too feel happiness after giving and, if so, how organizational interventions can be designed to encourage these "takers" to give more. In this study, we propose that the happiness effects associated with prosocial giving are moderated by individuals’ dispositional prosocial motivations – that is, whether they are a giver, matcher, or taker. We find that, contrary to previous findings, both givers and takers are made less happy by giving than personal spending, but the effect is less pronounced for takers. We suggest a "crowding out" effect of intrinsic motivation for givers. This result has important implications for organizations since it suggests that it may be possible to encourage giving prosocial behaviors even among notoriously selfish "takers" and also that ways to promote generosity may require tailoring to individual motivations.


giving, taking, prosocial, motivation, happiness, well-being, takers, givers

Included in

Business Commons



Date Posted: 28 October 2014


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