Ashley V. Whillans - Faculty & Research - Harvard Business School
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Ashley V. Whillans

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Negotiation, Organizations & Markets

Ashley Whillans is an assistant professor in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit, teaching the Negotiations course to MBA students. Broadly, she studies how people navigate trade-offs between time and money. Her ongoing research investigates whether and how intangible incentives, such as experiential and time-saving rewards, affect employee motivation and well-being. In 2015, she was named a Rising Star of Behavioral Science by the International Behavioral Exchange and the Behavioral Science and Policy Association. In 2016, she co-founded the Department of Behavioral Science in the Policy, Innovation, and Engagement Division of the British Columbia Public Service. Her research has been published in numerous academic journals and popular media outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post

Professor Whillans earned her BA, MA, and PhD in Social Psychology from the University of British Columbia.  Prior to joining HBS, she was a visiting scholar and guest lecturer at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Professor Whillans has also enjoyed an acting career, attending London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and appearing most notably in the 2007 comedy film Juno

Selected Publications
  1. Overcoming Barriers to Time-Saving: Reminders of Future Busyness Encourage Consumers to Buy Time

    A.V. Whillans, Elizabeth W. Dunn and Michael I. Norton

    Spending money on time-saving purchases improves happiness. Yet, people often fail to spend their money in this way. Because most people believe that the future will be less busy than the present, they may underweight the value of these purchases. We examine the impact of debiasing this previously unexplored barrier of consumer decisions to "buy time" in a field experiment with a U.S.-based sharing economy company (N=78,726). Prompting people to think that they will be as busy in the future as they are today increased the likelihood that customers would both open the email and click a link to purchase various services. In sum, making the future feel as busy as the present encourages individuals to buy future time.

    Keywords: well-being; consumer choice; sharing economy; opportunity cost; time management; Time-as Money; Time Management; Happiness; Perception; Behavior;

    Citation:

    Whillans, A.V., Elizabeth W. Dunn, and Michael I. Norton. "Overcoming Barriers to Time-Saving: Reminders of Future Busyness Encourage Consumers to Buy Time." Social Influence 13, no. 2 (2018): 117–124.  View Details
  2. Olfactory Cues from Romantic Partners and Strangers Moderate Women's Responses to Stress

    Marlise Hofer, Hanne Collins, Ashley V. Whillans and Frances Chen

    The scent of another person can activate memories, trigger emotions, and spark romantic attraction; however, almost nothing is known about whether and how human scents influence responses to stress. In the current study, 96 women were randomly assigned to smell one of three scents (their romantic partner’s, a stranger’s, or a neutral scent) and exposed to an acute stressor (Trier Social Stress Test). Perceived stress and cortisol were measured continuously throughout the study (5 & 7 times, respectively). Perceived stress was reduced in women who were exposed to their partner’s scent. This reduction was observed during stress anticipation and stress recovery. Cortisol levels were elevated in women who were exposed to a stranger’s scent. This elevation was observed throughout stress anticipation, peak stress, and stress recovery. The current work speaks to the critical role of human olfactory cues in social communication and reveals that social scents can impact both psychological and physiological reactions to stress.

    Keywords: Interpersonal Communication; Personal Characteristics; Perception;

    Citation:

    Hofer, Marlise, Hanne Collins, Ashley V. Whillans, and Frances Chen. "Olfactory Cues from Romantic Partners and Strangers Moderate Women's Responses to Stress." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 114, no. 1 (January 2018): 1–9.  View Details
  3. From Misperception to Social Connection: Correlates and Consequences of Overestimating Others' Social Connectedness

    A.V. Whillans, C. Christie, S. Cheung, A.H. Jordan and F.S. Chen

    Two studies document the existence and correlates of a widespread social belief, wherein individuals who have recently moved to a new social environment see their peers as more socially connected than they themselves are. In Study 1, the prevalence of this belief was documented in a large sample of first-year students (N=1099). In Study 2, the prevalence of this social belief was replicated in a targeted sample of university students (N=389). Study 2 also documented both positive and negative implications of this belief. Specifically, at any given time, students who believed that their peers were more socially connected than they themselves were reported lower well-being and belonging. Over time, however, the belief that one’s peers are moderately more socially connected than oneself was associated with more friendship formation.

    Keywords: social comparison; interpersonal relationships; well-being; Perception; Relationships; Familiarity; Happiness;

    Citation:

    Whillans, A.V., C. Christie, S. Cheung, A.H. Jordan, and F.S. Chen. "From Misperception to Social Connection: Correlates and Consequences of Overestimating Others' Social Connectedness." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 43, no. 12 (December 2017): 1696–1711. (Pre-published online, September 2017.)  View Details
  4. Buying Time Promotes Happiness

    Ashley V. Whillans, Elizabeth W. Dunn, Paul Smeets, Rene Bekkers and Michael I. Norton

    Around the world, increases in wealth have produced an unintended consequence: a rising sense of time scarcity. We provide evidence that using money to buy time can provide a buffer against this time famine, thereby promoting happiness. Using large, diverse samples from the United States, Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands (n = 6,271), we show that individuals who spend money on time-saving services report greater life satisfaction. A field experiment provides causal evidence that working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase. Together, these results suggest that using money to buy time can protect people from the detrimental effects of time pressure on life satisfaction.

    Keywords: time; well-being; Money; Happiness; Satisfaction;

    Citation:

    Whillans, Ashley V., Elizabeth W. Dunn, Paul Smeets, Rene Bekkers, and Michael I. Norton. "Buying Time Promotes Happiness." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114, no. 32 (August 8, 2017).  View Details
  5. Both Selfishness and Selflessness Start with the Self: How Wealth Shapes Responses to Charitable Appeals

    A.V. Whillans, E.M. Caruso and E.W. Dunn

    Wealth is associated with differences in people's self-concepts. We propose that these self-concepts should define the types of appeals that are most effective at motivating generosity. Across three field studies, we randomly assigned participants to view an appeal for a charitable organization that emphasized agency (the pursuit of personal goals) or communion (the pursuit of shared goals). When the appeal emphasized agency, wealthier individuals reported greater willingness to give and donated more money to charity. In contrast, when the appeal emphasized communion, less wealthy individuals reported greater willingness to give. These findings could not be explained by relevant demographic characteristics such as age, ethnicity, or gender. This work adds to a growing body of research suggesting that wealth does not inherently result in selfishness or generosity. By tailoring messages to fit with people's self-concepts, it is possible to catalyze giving across the socioeconomic spectrum.

    Keywords: Philanthropy and Charitable Giving; Wealth; Personal Characteristics; Behavior; Identity;

    Citation:

    Whillans, A.V., E.M. Caruso, and E.W. Dunn. "Both Selfishness and Selflessness Start with the Self: How Wealth Shapes Responses to Charitable Appeals." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 70 (May 2017): 242–250. (This publication was featured as an "Editor's Choice" at Science in January, 2017.)  View Details
  6. Does Volunteering Improve Well-being?

    A.V. Whillans, S.C. Seider, R. Dwyer, L. Chen, S. Novick, K.J. Graminga, B.A. Mitchell, V. Savalei, S.S. Dickerson and E.W. Dunn

    Does volunteering causally improve well-being? To empirically test this question, we examined one instantiation of volunteering that is common at post-secondary institutions across North America: community service learning (CSL). CSL is a form of experiential learning that combines volunteer work with intentional learning goals and active reflection. We partnered with an academic program that randomly assigns interested students to participate in a CSL program or to a wait-list. As part of this CSL program, students are required to engage in 10–12 h of formal volunteering each week in addition to completing related coursework. To assess the well-being benefits of formal volunteering through CSL participation, we examined the subjective wellbeing (SWB) of students from both groups over a six-month period. Using Bayesian statistics, and comparing a null model to a model specifying a small to moderate benefit of CSL participation, we found conclusive evidence in support of the null model. These findings diverge from previous correlational research in this area by providing no evidence for the causal benefits of volunteering on SWB. These findings highlight the critical importance of using experimental methodology to establish the causal benefits of volunteer work, such as the experiences provided by CSL programs, on SWB.

    Keywords: prosocial behavior; education; well-being; college students; Bayesian statistics; Welfare or Wellbeing;

    Citation:

    Whillans, A.V., S.C. Seider, R. Dwyer, L. Chen, S. Novick, K.J. Graminga, B.A. Mitchell, V. Savalei, S.S. Dickerson, and E.W. Dunn. "Does Volunteering Improve Well-being?" Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology 1, nos. 1-3 (2016): 35–50.  View Details
  7. Seeing Wealth as a Responsibility Improves Attitudes Towards Taxation

    Ashley V. Whillans, Nathan J. Wispinski and Elizabeth W. Dunn

    Taxes are beneficial; society depends on the revenue generated from taxation to provide essential public services such as education and health care. Taxes also attract a high degree of loathing. Tax noncompliance is a major problem for governments worldwide—with hundreds of billions of potential tax revenue uncollected each year. Thus, it is critical for research to examine factors that encourage tax satisfaction. In this research, we hypothesized that people would be more inclined to view taxation in a favorable light if they believed that wealth incurs a responsibility to give back to society (wealth-as-responsibility). Consistent with this prediction, in Study 1, people who reported stronger wealth-as-responsibility beliefs felt better about paying taxes. In Study 2, individuals assigned to read text encouraging the idea that wealth incurs a responsibility to give back to society felt better about paying taxes compared to a neutral control group. In Study 3, individuals assigned to read text encouraging wealth-as-responsibility felt better about paying taxes on earned income in the lab. Together, these studies show that reframing the meaning of wealth can shape people’s attitudes about paying their taxes, thus providing evidence for a novel lever to encourage more positive attitudes about taxation.

    Keywords: Wealth; Taxation; Attitudes; Society;

    Citation:

    Whillans, Ashley V., Nathan J. Wispinski, and Elizabeth W. Dunn. "Seeing Wealth as a Responsibility Improves Attitudes Towards Taxation." Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 127 (July 2016): 146–154.  View Details
  8. Is Spending Money on Others Good for Your Heart?

    A.V. Whillans, E.W. Dunn, G.M. Sandstrom, S.S. Dickerson and K.M. Madden

    OBJECTIVE: Does spending money on others (prosocial spending) improve the cardiovascular health of community-dwelling older adults diagnosed with high blood pressure? METHOD: In Study 1, 186 older adults diagnosed with high blood pressure participating in the Midlife in the U.S. Study (MIDUS) were examined. In Study 2, 73 older adults diagnosed with high blood pressure were assigned to spend money on others or to spend money on themselves. RESULTS: In Study 1, the more money people spent on others, the lower their blood pressure was 2 years later. In Study 2, participants who were assigned to spend money on others for 3 consecutive weeks subsequently exhibited lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to participants assigned to spend money on themselves. The magnitude of these effects was comparable to the effects of interventions such as antihypertensive medication or exercise. CONCLUSIONS: Together, these findings suggest that spending money on others shapes cardiovascular health, thereby providing a pathway by which prosocial behavior improves physical health among at-risk older adults.

    Keywords: Health; Philanthropy and Charitable Giving; Behavior; Performance Improvement;

    Citation:

    Whillans, A.V., E.W. Dunn, G.M. Sandstrom, S.S. Dickerson, and K.M. Madden. "Is Spending Money on Others Good for Your Heart?" Health Psychology 35, no. 6 (June 2016): 574–580.  View Details
  9. Valuing Time Over Money Is Associated with Greater Happiness

    Ashley V. Whillans, Aaron C. Weidman and Elizabeth W. Dunn

    How do the trade-offs that we make about two of our most valuable resources—time and money—shape happiness? While past research has documented the immediate consequences of thinking about time and money, research has not yet examined whether people’s general orientations to prioritize time over money are associated with greater happiness. In the current research, we develop the Resource Orientation Measure (ROM) to assess people’s stable preferences to prioritize time over money. Next, using data from students, adults recruited from the community, and a representative sample of employed Americans, we show that the ROM is associated with greater well-being. These findings could not be explained by materialism, material striving, current feelings of time or material affluence, or demographic characteristics such as income or marital status. Across six studies (N = 4,690), we provide the first empirical evidence that prioritizing time over money is a stable preference related to greater subjective well-being.

    Keywords: well-being; happiness; time; money; trade-offs; orientations; Happiness; Money; Satisfaction;

    Citation:

    Whillans, Ashley V., Aaron C. Weidman, and Elizabeth W. Dunn. "Valuing Time Over Money Is Associated with Greater Happiness." Social Psychological & Personality Science 7, no. 3 (April 2016): 213–222. (Most read publication in SPPS in December & January, 2016. This publication was featured in the "Top 10 Insights from the Science of a Meaningful Life in 2016" by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.)  View Details
  10. Finding the Middle Ground: Curvilinear Associations Between Positive Affect Variability and Daily Cortisol Profiles

    L.J. Human, A.V. Whillans, C. Hoppmann, P. Klumb, S.S. Dickerson and E.W. Dunn

    There is growing evidence that there are stable and meaningful individual differences in how much people vary in their experience of positive affect (PA), which in turn may have implications for health and well-being. Does such PA variability play a role in physiological processes potentially related to stress and health, such as daily cortisol profiles? We explored this question by examining whether PA variability across and within days in middle-aged adults (Study 1) and across weeks in older adults (Study 2) was associated with daily salivary cortisol profiles. In both studies, individuals who exhibited moderate PA variability demonstrated more favorable cortisol profiles, such as lower levels of cortisol and steeper slopes. Interestingly, for middle-aged adults (Study 1), high levels of within-day PA variability were associated with the least favorable cortisol profiles, whereas for older adults (Study 2), low levels of across-week PA variability were associated with the least favorable cortisol profiles. Collectively, these findings provide some of the first evidence that PA variability is related to daily cortisol profiles, suggesting that it may be better to experience a moderate degree of positive affect variability. Too much or too little variability, however, may be problematic, potentially carrying negative implications for stress-related physiological responding.

    Keywords: positive affect; intraindividual variability; daily cortisol profiles; Health;

    Citation:

    Human, L.J., A.V. Whillans, C. Hoppmann, P. Klumb, S.S. Dickerson, and E.W. Dunn. "Finding the Middle Ground: Curvilinear Associations Between Positive Affect Variability and Daily Cortisol Profiles." Emotion 15, no. 6 (December 2015): 705–720.  View Details
  11. Thinking About Time as Money Decreases Environmental Behavior

    Ashley V. Whillans and Elizabeth W. Dunn

    Surprisingly, Americans are no more likely to engage in environmental behavior today than 20 years ago. A novel explanation for this pattern may lie in the increased tendency to see time as money. Using large-scale survey data, we show that people are less likely to engage in environmental behavior if they are paid by the hour, a form of compensation that leads people to see their time as money. Using experimental methodology, we show that making the economic value of time salient reduces environmental intentions and behavior. This occurs in part because thinking about the economic value of time creates awareness of the opportunity costs associated with environmental behavior. We mitigate these effects by reframing environmental behavior as an act consistent with self-interest. Together, this research suggests that viewing time as money shapes environmental decisions, potentially shedding light on patterns of environmental behavior across time and around the world.

    Keywords: Money; Environmental Sustainability; Behavior; Perception;

    Citation:

    Whillans, Ashley V., and Elizabeth W. Dunn. "Thinking About Time as Money Decreases Environmental Behavior." Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 127 (March 2015): 44–52.  View Details
  12. Making a Difference Matters: Impact Unlocks the Emotional Benefits of Prosocial Spending

    Lara B. Aknin, Elizabeth W. Dunn, Ashley V. Whillans, Adam M. Grant and Michael I. Norton

    When does giving lead to happiness? Here, we present two studies demonstrating that the emotional benefits of spending money on others (prosocial spending) are unleashed when givers are aware of their positive impact. In Study 1, an experiment using real charitable appeals, giving more money to charity led to higher levels of happiness only when participants gave to causes that explained how these funds are used to make a difference in the life of a recipient. In Study 2, participants were asked to reflect upon a time they spent money on themselves or on others in a way that either had a positive impact or had no impact. Participants who recalled a time they spent on others that had a positive impact were happiest. Together, these results suggest that highlighting the impact of prosocial spending can increase the emotional rewards of giving.

    Keywords: prosocial spending; prosocial impact; subjective well being; happiness; donations; Happiness; Philanthropy and Charitable Giving;

    Citation:

    Aknin, Lara B., Elizabeth W. Dunn, Ashley V. Whillans, Adam M. Grant, and Michael I. Norton. "Making a Difference Matters: Impact Unlocks the Emotional Benefits of Prosocial Spending." Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 88 (April 2013): 90–95.  View Details
Selected Book Chapters & White Papers
  1. Work and Well-being: A Global Perspective

    Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Amy Blankson, Andrew Clark, Cary Cooper, James Harter, Christian Krekel, Jenn Lim, Paul Litchfield, Jennifer Moss, Michael I. Norton, Mariano Rojas, George Ward and Ashley V. Whillans

    Work and employment play a central role in most people’s lives. In OECD countries, for example, people spend around a third of their waking hours engaged in paid work. We not only spend considerable amounts of our time at work, employment and workplace quality also rank among the most important drivers of happiness. This chapter presents our research on the ways in which work and workplace quality influence people’s well-being around the world. It also highlights a number of best practices that may inspire policy-makers and business leaders in putting well-being at the heart of their policies.

    Keywords: Employment; Working Conditions; Happiness; Policy; Global Range;

    Citation:

    De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel, Amy Blankson, Andrew Clark, Cary Cooper, James Harter, Christian Krekel, Jenn Lim, Paul Litchfield, Jennifer Moss, Michael I. Norton, Mariano Rojas, George Ward, and Ashley V. Whillans. "Work and Well-being: A Global Perspective." Chap. 5 in Global Happiness Policy Report. New York: Global Happiness Council, 2018.  View Details
  2. Time, Money, and Subjective Wellbeing

    Cassie Mogilner, A.V. Whillans and Michael I. Norton

    Time and money are scarce and precious resources: people experience stress about having insufficient time and worry about having insufficient money. This chapter reviews research showing that the ways in which people spend their time and money, the tradeoffs that people make between having more time or having more money, and the extent to which people focus on each resource can have a significant impact on happiness. Considering subjective well-being (or “happiness”) as a combination of high positive affect, low negative affect, and high feelings of life satisfaction, we explore when, how, and why time and money impact peoples’ anticipated, momentary, and lasting happiness.

    Keywords: Money; Time Management; Happiness; Satisfaction;

    Citation:

    Mogilner, Cassie, A.V. Whillans, and Michael I. Norton. "Time, Money, and Subjective Wellbeing." In Handbook of Well-Being, edited by Ed Diener, Shigehiro Oishi, and Louis Tay. Noba Scholar Handbook Series. Salt Lake City: DEF Publishers, 2018. Electronic.  View Details
  3. A Brief Introduction to the Science of Fundraising

    A.V. Whillans

    How can the science of philanthropy inform day-to-day fundraising? This brief report explores the usefulness of looking to social science research to enhance fundraising strategies. Drawing on empirical studies from the disciplines of psychology, sociology, and economics, this paper discusses several potential points of intersection between fundraising and scholarly research. Specifically, this paper proposes a 'DIME' model to highlight three considerations when crafting fundraising campaigns: Donation Impact, Motivation, and Effort. It also discusses methods to incorporate this research into ongoing fundraising strategies. Finally, this paper provides recommendations for how professionals can use research to inform fundraising practices, and, more broadly to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

    Keywords: Philanthropy and Charitable Giving; Research; Strategy;

    Citation:

    Whillans, A.V. "A Brief Introduction to the Science of Fundraising." White Paper, Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Washington, DC, May 2016.  View Details
Selected Working Papers
  1. Valuing Time Over Money Is Associated With Greater Social Connection

    Ashley V. Whillans and Elizabeth Dunn

    New research suggests that the trade-offs that people make between time and money shape happiness. However, this research has not yet examined why people’s general orientations to prioritize time over money might promote well-being. Across three studies, utilizing both self-report (N=127; N=249) and behavioral outcomes (N=358), we provide the first empirical evidence that valuing time over money encourages greater investment in everyday social interactions. These findings could not be explained by extraversion (Study 1) or by demographic characteristics such as age, gender, or socioeconomic status (Studies 1-3). These studies suggest that valuing time over money may promote well-being by facilitating social connection.

    Keywords: happiness; well-being; time; money; trade-offs; Happiness; Money; Interpersonal Communication; Welfare or Wellbeing;

    Citation:

    Whillans, Ashley V., and Elizabeth Dunn. "Valuing Time Over Money Is Associated With Greater Social Connection." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 18-087, February 2018.  View Details
  2. Time and Money Trade-Offs Shape Major Life Decisions

    Ashley V. Whillans, Alice Lee-Yoon and Elizabeth W. Dunn

    How do the trade-offs that people make between time and money shape major life decisions? Previous research suggests that the tendency to prioritize time over money is a stable orientation that influences day-to-day decision-making and is associated with greater subjective well-being. Yet, nothing is known about whether prioritizing time over money shapes consequential decisions and long-term happiness. To shed light on this question, we tracked a large cohort of graduating students across two years (N=822). Students who valued time over money in their senior year of college (T1) were more likely to make intrinsically rewarding career choices and were happier two years after graduation (T2), even after controlling for T1 happiness. This study is the first to show that people’s chronic orientations to value time over money can shape their major life decisions with implications for long-term trajectories of subjective well-being.

    Keywords: money; time; trade-offs; subjective well-being;

    Citation:

    Whillans, Ashley V., Alice Lee-Yoon, and Elizabeth W. Dunn. "Time and Money Trade-Offs Shape Major Life Decisions." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 18-086, February 2018.  View Details
  3. The Upside to Feeling Worse than Average: A Conceptual Framework to Understand When, How, and for Whom Worse-than-Average Beliefs Have Long-Term Benefits

    Ashley V. Whillans, Frances Chen and Alex Jordan

    Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are shaped in critical ways by our beliefs about how we compare to other people. Past research has predominantly focused on the consequences of believing oneself to be better than average (BTA). Research on the consequences of worse-than-average (WTA) beliefs has been far more limited and has focused mostly on the downsides of WTA beliefs. In this paper, we argue for the systematic investigation of the possible long-term benefits of WTA beliefs in domains including motivation, task performance, and subjective well-being. We develop a conceptual framework for examining these potential benefits, explore the utility of this framework to generate novel insights in an example psychological domain (skill learning), and conclude with broader recommendations for research in other domains, including friendship formation and moral and political decision making.

    Keywords: Identity; Perception; Personal Characteristics; Performance;

    Citation:

    Whillans, Ashley V., Frances Chen, and Alex Jordan. "The Upside to Feeling Worse than Average: A Conceptual Framework to Understand When, How, and for Whom Worse-than-Average Beliefs Have Long-Term Benefits." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 18-076, February 2018.  View Details
  4. Why Passionate Employees Can Have It All: Passion Lowers Time Stress by Enhancing Goal Integration

    Jon M. Jachimowicz and Ashley V. Whillans

    Passionate employees seem to effortlessly juggle numerous work commitments and devote vast amounts of time and energy to the advancement of their goals. Past research suggests that this dedication improves the productivity of passionate employees. However, it is unclear how employees’ work passion promotes their resolve. We propose that employees’ passion for work reduces how much time pressure they perceive, providing them with the feeling that they have sufficient time to accomplish their goals. This occurs, we suggest, because employees’ passion for work integrates seemingly disparate work-related ambitions within one common drive. To provide evidence for this hypothesis, we conducted four studies, including two field studies with employees at a technology and financial services company, and two pre-registered experimental studies (N = 3,321). Our results reveal why passionate employees attain better outcomes, and help to shed light on when and why their passion for work is likely to incur productivity benefits.

    Keywords: passion; time stress; goal conflict; goal integration; Employees; Emotions; Goals and Objectives; Time Management; Perception; Performance Productivity;

    Citation:

    Jachimowicz, Jon M., and Ashley V. Whillans. "Why Passionate Employees Can Have It All: Passion Lowers Time Stress by Enhancing Goal Integration." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 18-073, January 2018.  View Details
  5. Time-Saving Purchases Promote Relationship Satisfaction

    A.V. Whillans, Jessie Pow and Michael I. Norton

    Conflicts over chores are one of the primary reasons that couples divorce: both men and women become frustrated working a “second shift” at home. Recent research offers a potential solution to this source of marital conflict: time-saving purchases, such as hiring a housecleaner, can improve personal happiness. Yet, nothing is known about whether and how time-saving purchases promote relationship satisfaction. Across seven studies assessing co-habitating working adults in committed relationships (N=3,206), we find evidence that buying time promotes relationship satisfaction. These benefits occur because buying time protects couples from the negative impact of relationship stress, and enables couples to spend more quality time together. We also document a boundary condition of these effects: Time-saving purchases are most likely to promote relationship satisfaction when couples face controllable (vs. uncontrollable) stressors in their everyday lives. Taken together, this research points to a relatively simple solution to a critical source of marital conflict: spend money to buy time.

    Keywords: time; money; Couples; Social Support; Relationship Satisfaction; Marriage; Household; Spending; Relationships; Satisfaction; Conflict and Resolution;

    Citation:

    Whillans, A.V., Jessie Pow, and Michael I. Norton. "Time-Saving Purchases Promote Relationship Satisfaction." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 18-072, January 2018.  View Details
  6. Translating Time to Cash: Monetizing Non-salary Benefits Can Shift Employment Preferences

    A.V. Whillans, R. J. Dwyer and M. Perovic

    When considering whether or not to accept a job offer, employees often focus too much on salary and not enough on other non-cash benefits that might best promote long-term happiness, such as having more paid time-off. How can we help employees recognize the value of non-salary benefits? One reason that employees may focus too much on salary is because the value of non-salary benefits is difficult to determine. In four studies (N=1,981), we examined whether listing the monetary value of non-salary benefits (e.g., paid time-off) could help individuals better recognize the value of these benefits, thereby shifting their employment preferences. Consistent with this hypothesis, placing a monetary value on non-salary benefits shifted employment preferences. For example, in Studies 1a & 3, participants were more willing to choose a job with a lower starting salary and more paid time-off. In two additional studies (N=1,004), when organizations listed the value of non-salary benefits, these organizations were perceived as providing greater work-life balance and caring more about their employees. In sum, highlighting the monetary value of non-salary rewards can increase the attractiveness of a job offer and help organizations more adeptly signal their empathy toward employees.

    Keywords: compensation; Salary; benefits; time; money; Time-as Money; well-being; Compensation and Benefits; Wages; Work-Life Balance; Perception; Decision Making;

    Citation:

    Whillans, A.V., R. J. Dwyer, and M. Perovic. "Translating Time to Cash: Monetizing Non-salary Benefits Can Shift Employment Preferences." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 18-059, January 2018.  View Details
  7. Guilt Undermines Consumer Willingness To Buy Time

    Ashley V. Whillans and Elizabeth W. Dunn

    Time, money, and happiness – and the relationships among them – have been the subject of inquiry across the social sciences, including psychology, sociology, and economics. Money has the potential to decrease the time we spend doing the things we hate – like housecleaning. In recent research, people who spent money to outsource their disliked tasks were happier than people who did not. Yet, the vast majority of people do not spend money in this way, even when they can afford to do so. In this research, we propose an under examined psychological barrier that can prevent people from buying time: feelings of guilt. We also help people overcome these feelings of guilt by highlighting the benefits to the service provider. This research therefore adds to the growing body of research seeking to encourage people to spend money in happier ways.

    Keywords: Happiness; Money; Spending; Attitudes; Cost vs Benefits;

    Citation:

    Whillans, Ashley V., and Elizabeth W. Dunn. "Guilt Undermines Consumer Willingness To Buy Time." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 18-057, January 2018.  View Details
Selected Editorials