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Does observing reciprocity or exploitation affect elevation, a mechanism driving prosociality?

  • Daniel M.T. Fessler (a1), Adam Maxwell Sparks (a1), Theodore Samore (a1) and Colin Holbrook (a2)

Abstract

Fitness is enhanced by determining when to behave prosocially. Elevation, an uplifting emotion elicited by witnessing exemplary prosociality, upregulates prosociality in the presence of prosocial others, as such contexts render prosociality profitable and/or antisociality costly. Prior research examines responses to a single highly prosocial individual. However, the profitability of enhancing prosociality hinges not only on potential interactions with a single actor, but also on the actions of others. Accordingly, information regarding how others respond to the prosocial exemplar may influence elevation elicitation and corresponding changes in prosocial motivation. If others reciprocate the exemplar's prosociality, or pay prosociality forward, this expands opportunities for the observer to profit by increasing prosociality, and thus could enhance elevation elicitation. Conversely, if others exploit the exemplar, this may diminish the profitability of prosociality, as the observer who acts prosocially may similarly be exploited and/or the resources with which the exemplar could reciprocate will be depleted. Conducting three online studies of Americans in which information regarding the responses of others to a prosocial exemplar was manipulated, we find that, against predictions, prosocial responses by the beneficiaries of prosociality generally do not enhance elevation among observers, whereas, consonant with predictions, antisocial responses markedly diminish elevation among observers.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Department of Anthropology, 341 Haines Hall, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1553USA. E-mail: dfessler@anthro.ucla.edu

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ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7795-7500

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References

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Does observing reciprocity or exploitation affect elevation, a mechanism driving prosociality?

  • Daniel M.T. Fessler (a1), Adam Maxwell Sparks (a1), Theodore Samore (a1) and Colin Holbrook (a2)

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