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Does seeing altruism make you more altruistic?

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Feelings of elevation, elicited by witnessing another person perform a good deed, have been hypothesized to motivate a desire to help others. However, despite growing interest in the determinants of prosocial behavior, there is only limited evidence that elevation leads to increases in altruistic behavior. In two experiments, we tested the relationship between elevation and helping behavior. Prior to measuring helping behavior, we measured elevation among participants in an elevation-inducing condition and control conditions in order to determine whether witnessing altruistic behavior elicited elevation. In Experiment 1, participants experiencing elevation were more likely to volunteer for a subsequent unpaid study than were participants in a neutral state. In Experiment 2, participants experiencing elevation spent approximately twice as long helping the experimenter with a tedious task as participants experiencing mirth or a neutral emotional state. Further, feelings of elevation, but not feelings of amusement or happiness, predicted the amount of helping. Together, these results provide evidence that witnessing another person’s altruistic behavior elicits elevation, a discrete emotion that, in turn, leads to tangible increases in altruism.

Source: “Elevation Leads to Altruistic Behavior” from Psychological Science

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About Eric Barker