Elizabeth Dunn

Money, Generosity and Happiness

In an engaging and interactive dialogue, Elizabeth Dunn joined Bill Harbaugh and John Helliwell at SFU Harbour Centre for “Money, Generosity and Happiness” where the running theme was that while we may very often believe that we can “buy” happiness we’re better off “investing” in the well-being of others.

Dunn, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, shared her experiment in which she gave university students money – $5 or $20 – and in one group, she asked them to spend that money on themselves and in the other group she asked them to spend the money on someone else.

She then asked the students to estimate their levels of happiness. What she found was that the students who had spent the money on others showed much higher levels of happiness than those who had spent it on themselves. Further, she found that those who had only spent $5 on someone else showed similar levels of happiness to those who had spent $20, suggesting that the amount of money spent on the well-being of others can be small and still produce positive effects.

Dunn, who undertook a similar study in Uganda, suggested that these findings may transcend cultural and geographic boundaries as she found similar results in the East African country.

Watch the trailer and check out the full audio podcast in the Event link below.