The Impact of Past Deeds on Prosocial Behaviors: The Case of Charitable Giving: An Abstract
The emotional dimension of prosocial behaviors is now unanimously acknowledged, and research has grown accordingly (Small and Verrochi 2009). Based upon the assumption that emotional responses lead to behaviors, authors have focused on the antecedents of emotions, and very limited research has been conducted to identify the conditions under which emotions lead to generosity (Chédotal et al. 2017). Authors are not unanimous on the consequences of emotions as studies have often led to mixed results. Manipulating the emotional valence (negative vs. positive) and the proximity between donors and beneficiaries, we show that whereas guilt leads to more generosity, positive emotions have the opposite effects and further detail the moderating role of empathic tendencies and proximity.
As a cover story for our experiments, people had to answer questions about their TV viewing habits. At the end of the questionnaires, participants were financially rewarded and given the opportunity to keep or to donate the endowment to a fictitious charity. The manipulation of the emotional valence was based on a writing task. Participants were given some time to write a description of an event in which they had done something negative or positive to someone important to them (Sachdeva et al. 2009; Xu et al. 2014). To manipulate the perceived proximity with the victims, participants had either the opportunity to give to a fictitious charity operating in a geographically close area (country of participants) or in a remote area (former Soviet bloc countries). Study 1 (n = 127; Mage = 22.69; st. dev = 1.73) investigated the impact of guilt feelings and confirmed that their positive impact on generosity is moderated by empathic tendencies and perceived proximity with the victims. Study 2 (n = 134; Mage = 22.83; st. dev = 1.35) investigated the impact of positive feelings and confirmed their negative impact on generosity. Finally, Study 3 (n = 183; Mage = 21.05; st. dev = 1.37) generalized results from Study 1 and Study 2 to anticipated feelings.
This research contributes to a better understanding the role of emotions that people experience after engaging in good or bad behaviors on charitable giving. Although the positive (negative) impact of negative (positive) feelings on prosocial behaviors have already been suggested in prior studies (Sachdeva et al. 2009; Renner et al. 2013), we clarify the debate by identifying the conditions under which such effects take place.
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