en News Single View - WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management
Monday, 03. December 2012

How altruistic behavior changes the sense of time

According to studies from the University of Pennsylvania, selfless actions create the perception of a widened availability of time and more productivity. In an interview with the Harvard Business Manager Assistant Professor Cassie Mogilner presents the results of her studies.

Throughout the experiments, a subject group had to spend time helping people in need while another group was asked to simply use this time doing whatever they wished for. Subsequently, it was observed that those who had helped others before felt more powerful and self-confident afterwards. Moreover, they claimed to have more time available for doing further good – on average 9 minutes more than the other participants. Although, in all objectivity, the time budget of the helping subjects had declined, they felt a higher effectiveness thanks to the contributed assistance and were more motivated and productive than prior to the experiment.

The experiments further revealed that the positive effect of such benevolent activities was not influenced by the actual time investment: Whether the subject had spent 10 or 30 minutes helping another person was irrelevant in terms of the subsequent increase in motivation.

In this context, Cassie Mogilner stated in her interview, that “these results match with studies concerning the effect of money which imply that the value we assign to money is influenced rather by what we spend it for than by the amount itself.”

Similarly, people who spent part of their time on charitable activities have the impression “to have achieved something and thus to be able to achieve more in the future as well. It is this feeling of self-efficacy that makes them believe that time is infinitely extendable”, the Professor stated.

The complete interview can be found in the German edition of the Harvard Business Manager  (Nov ember 2012) or online at www.harvardbusinessmanager.de