Pleasure or Meaning: Subjective Well-Being Orientations and the Willingness to Help Close Versus Distant Others

Hagit Sabato*, Sapir Bar-Ilan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We examined the role of two Subjective well-being orientations, hedonism (maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain) and eudemonia (a desire for meaningful life), in prosocial behavior toward a close help recipient versus a distant one. Study 1 examined individual differences in levels of hedonism and eudemonia, while studies 2 and 3 used a priming manipulation to enhance the salience of the two orientations. In all three studies we found that these orientations interact with the attributes of the help recipient during the decision to help. Specifically, hedonism was found to be positively associated with prosocial acts when the recipient was presented as a close other (a friend, as opposed to an unfamiliar student; or a specific identified target, as opposed to a general one). Conversely, eudemonia predicted greater donations to more general or distant causes. A moderated mediation analysis (Study 3) suggests that the hedonic orientation increased donations specifically to closer recipients (the identified victim), due to the heightened emotional reaction raised by this help target. However, the increased donations to the general help target under eudemonic orientation was not driven by emotional reactions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2013-2037
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Eudemonia
  • Hedonism
  • Identifiability
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Social distance
  • Well-being orientations


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