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The present experiment was designed to establish the effects of acts of kindness and acts of novelty on life satisfaction. Participants aged 18-60 took part on a voluntary basis. They were randomly assigned to perform either acts of kindness, acts of novelty, or no acts on a daily basis for 10 days. Their life satisfaction was measured before and after the 10-day experiment. As expected, performing acts of kindness or acts of novelty resulted in an increase in life satisfaction.
The Journal of Social Psychology, 2010, 150(3), 235–237
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VSOC0022-4545The Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 150, No. 3, Mar 2010: pp. 0–0The Journal of Social Psychology
Acts of Kindness and Acts of Novelty
Affect Life Satisfaction
The Journal of Social PsychologyBuchanan & Bardi KATHRYN E. BUCHANAN
University of Kent
Royal Holloway University of London
ABSTRACT. The present experiment was designed to establish the effects of acts of kind-
ness and acts of novelty on life satisfaction. Participants aged 18–60 took part on a volun-
tary basis. They were randomly assigned to perform either acts of kindness, acts of
novelty, or no acts on a daily basis for 10 days. Their life satisfaction was measured before
and after the 10-day experiment. As expected, performing acts of kindness or acts of nov-
elty resulted in an increase in life satisfaction.
Keywords: kindness, life satisfaction, well-being
KIND ACTS HAVE CONSISTENTLY been positively correlated with
enhanced life satisfaction (e.g., Dulin, Hill, Anderson & Rasmussen, 2001;
Hunter & Lin, 1981). However, only a few unpublished studies have conducted
interventions to establish the direction of causality (reviewed in Boehm &
Lyubomirsky, 2009). For example, students who performed five kind acts per
week for 6 weeks experienced an increase in happiness, an effect not mirrored in
the control condition (see Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005). The present
study asked participants to perform a daily kind act for 10 days and expected to
replicate research indicating enhanced life satisfaction.
The success of kind acts may be due to the potential element of novelty
counteracting adaption effects (Brickman & Campbell, 1971; Brickman, Coates
& Janoff-Bulman, 1978). Indeed, participants who performed five kind acts in
Address correspondence to Anat Bardi, Royal Holloway, Psychology Department,
Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, TW20 0EX United Kingdom; Anat.bardi@ (e-mail).
236 The Journal of Social Psychology
1 day every week had a larger increase in happiness than those who performed
five kind acts over a week (see Lyubomirsky et al., 2005), presumably because
performing the acts regularly allowed participants to adapt faster. This highlights
novelty as an important factor in increasing happiness and raises the question of
whether performing new acts is sufficient to increase life satisfaction. Presently,
only correlational support linking positive activity change with positive affect has
been obtained (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006). To test if novelty can promote
happiness, we added an experimental condition in which participants performed
new acts every day for 10 days. We predicted that participants performing new
acts would report a greater improvement in happiness than the control group.
We recruited 86 participants (38 males and 48 females, aged 18–60, M = 26,
SD = 6) via opportunity sampling to complete the study in 2008. Because all par-
ticipation was voluntary, this may have resulted in a smaller sample size than
anticipated. Participants were randomly assigned to perform either kind acts, new
acts, or no acts. Participants performed acts every day for 10 days and received
daily email reminders containing a web-link used to record the act performed.
We used the 5-item Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen &
Griffin, 1985) to measure life satisfaction before and after the intervention.
A one-way ANOVA established that life satisfaction increases (T2-T1) dif-
fered across the activity conditions (kind, new, or none), F(2, 83) = 4.13, p < .05,
partial h2 = .09. Life satisfaction increased in the experimental conditions (Kind
condition: M = .54, SD = .86; New condition: M = .35, SD = .73) but not in the
control condition (M = .04, SD = .74). Planned comparisons revealed that the
increase in life satisfaction was significantly higher in the experimental condi-
tions compared with the control condition (Kind condition: t(83) = 2.84, p .01,
d = .62; New condition: t(83) = 1.86, p .05, d = .41). The experimental groups
did not differ in life satisfaction increase (t(83) = .94, NS, d = .21).
The current experiment indicates that kind and new acts, performed daily
over as little as 10 days, can increase life satisfaction. Furthermore, the results
highlight novelty as an integral feature of happiness-enhancing interventions.
Anat Bardi, PhD, is a senior lecturer (equivalent to associate professor) in
Royal Holloway, University of London. Dr. Bardi received her PhD from the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Kathryn E. Buchanan is a doctoral
student at Royal Holloway University of London.
Boehm, J. K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). The promise of sustainable happiness. In S. J.
Lopez (Ed.), Handbook of postive psychology (2nd ed., pp. 667–677). Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Buchanan & Bardi 237
Brickman, P., & Campbell, D. T. (1971). Hedonic relativism and planning the good
society. In M. H. Appley (Ed.), Adaption level theory: A symposium (pp. 287–302).
New York: Academic Press.
Brickman, P., Coates, D., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1978). Lottery winners and accident
victims—Is happiness relative? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36,
Diener, E., Emmons, R., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life
scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.
Dulin, P., Hill, R. D., Anderson, J., & Rasmussen, D. (2001). Altriusm as a predictor of
life satsifaction in a sample of low-income older adult service providers. Journal of
Mental Health and Aging, 7, 349–359.
Hunter, K. I., & Lin, M. W. (1981). Psychosocial differences between elderly volunteers and
non-volunteers. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 12, 205–213.
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The archi-
tecture of sustainable change. Review of General Pscyhology, 9, 111–131.
Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). Achieving sustainable gains in happiness:
Change your actions, not your circumstances. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 55–86.
Received February 20, 2009
Accepted April 20, 2009
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