When it comes to the pursuit of happiness, there are many different speculations and theories on how it may be obtained. Pop-culture places a high belief in the idea that happiness lies within the focus of oneself and of people’s individualized needs. Another commonly held idea states that happiness lies within spending hard earned money on material items. However, within psychology, countless studies have disproven this pop-culture belief and now there is evidence that demonstrates the negative relationship that materialism has on life satisfaction (Roberts, Tsang, & Manolis, 2015). On the other hand, research on prosocial spending is on the rise and an considerable amount proof of the positive affects related to prosocial behavior and its connection to happiness can be read about in the Journal of Positive Psychology. This thesis describes previous research and discusses a design for a study that can be executed in the future to explore conductors of happiness. The purpose of this study is to better the understand the mechanisms behind people’s motivations within prosocial behavior and the relationship between prosocial behavior and happiness. Current studies in happiness indicate that there is a strong association between happiness and prosocial behavior. However, current research lacks in explaining the differing mechanisms behind our motivations for such behavior. This thesis focuses on two distinct mechanisms for prosocial behavior, (1) altruistic intentionality, and (2) equity theory. Altruistic intentionality refers to one’s openness to be prosocial without expectation of reciprocation or recognition for the act. Prosocial behavior can be characterized as any act with the goal of benefiting another person, and may include 4 everyday kindnesses (e.g., cooking dinner for a loved one), as well as larger efforts to improve the world (e.g., picking up litter). On the other hand, equity theory states that people are driven by fairness, and their outputs in life are determined by their inputs received. Based on previous research, my hypothesis is that altruistic intentionality will lead to happiness.


Happiness, positive psychology, altruism, equity theory

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Dr. Frye

Academic Department