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Can Positive Psychology Improve Psychological Well-Being and Economic Decision-Making? Experimental Evidence from Kenya

Victoria Baranov, Johannes Haushofer () and Chaning Jang

Economic Development and Cultural Change, 2020, vol. 68, issue 4, 1345 - 1376

Abstract: We conduct a randomized experiment to evaluate the effect of a light-touch, low-cost psychological intervention on psychological well-being and economic decision-making in a developing country setting. Residents of an informal settlement in Kenya were randomly assigned to participate in best-practice exercises designed to promote gratitude, self-affirmation, and aspirations. We show that although we were successful in manipulating the psychological construct (reported gratitude increased by 0.3 standard deviation), there is no evidence that the intervention affected overall psychological well-being, beliefs, or aspirations. We also see no effects on real-incentive tasks measuring cognitive control or temporal discounting. Our results are important because light-touch positive psychology interventions are being widely promoted in workplaces and schools worldwide as a low-cost way to dramatically improve psychological well-being.

Date: 2020
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