Motives matter: The emotional consequences of recalled self-and other-focused prosocial acts

Dylan Wiwad*, Lara B. Aknin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Past research has demonstrated that engaging in and reflecting upon past instances of prosocial behavior promote happiness. Yet, people provide help for a myriad of reasons. Do the motives for giving impact its emotional consequences? In three experiments (N > 680), we compared the emotional outcomes of recalling a past instance of prosocial behavior motivated by self-focused and other-focused concerns. Using both between and within subjects designs, we find that recalling an instance of other-focused helping leads to higher positive affect than recalling an instance of self-focused helping. This finding was mediated by feelings of morality. The present work suggests that not all acts of kindness offer equivalent well-being benefits and that selfish motives may undermine the emotional rewards that typically follow other-focused prosocial behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)730-740
Number of pages11
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Happiness
  • Helping
  • Morality
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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