Motives Matter: The Emotional Consequences of Recalled Self- and Other-Focused Prosocial Behavior


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 proso-cial 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.

In Motivation and Emotion