Humans are moral beings, and have beliefs and expectations about their own as well as others’ moral behaviors. Supererogation refers to moral behaviors that “go beyond the call of duty” (Archer, 2018; Urmson, 1958). Therefore, while they are good to perform, they are not bad to omit, unlike obligatory moral behaviors which are considered moral duties, and thus good to perform but bad to omit. It is puzzling why supererogation is performed at all, since it is not obligated; often costly (Kahn, 1992) and can even elicit negative reactions from others (Minson & Monin, 2012). This begs the question - what are some benefits of supererogation for the actor, that might motivate its performance? The present research aimed to answer this by examining meaning and happiness as positive consequences of supererogation. In Study 1 (N = 98), participants provided examples of behaviors they considered obligatory and supererogatory, and answered questions about their perceptions of the actions. We found that although both supererogation and obligation were considered equally ethical, there was greater expectation of meaning and happiness from the performance of supererogatory, than obligatory behaviors. Study 2 (N = 200) examined how perceptions of supererogation and obligation for the same actions were associated with meaning and happiness. Nine items were chosen from the most frequent obligatory and supererogatory examples from Study 1. Findings revealed that perceived supererogation predicted greater meaning and happiness in life, and that perceived choice both mediated and moderated this relationship. Taken together, supererogatory behaviors may be associated with enhanced meaning and happiness in life, relative to obligatory behaviors.




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