Previous research has shown that spending money on others (prosocial spending) increases happiness. But, do the happiness gains depend on who the money is spent on? Sociologists have distinguished between strong ties with close friends and family and weak ties—relationships characterized by less frequent contact, lower emotional intensity, and limited intimacy. We randomly assigned participants to reflect on a time when they spent money on either a strong social tie or a weak social tie. Participants reported higher levels of positive affect after recalling a time they spent on a strong tie versus a weak tie. The level of intimacy in the relationship was more important than the type of relationship; there was no significant difference in positive affect after recalling spending money on a family member instead of a friend. These results add to the growing literature examining the factors that moderate the link between prosocial behaviour and happiness.
Aknin, L. B., Sandstrom, G. M., Dunn, E. W., &Norton, M. I. (2011). It’s the recipient that counts: Spending money on strong social ties leads to greater happiness than spending on weak social ties. PloS one, 6(2), e17018.