Author: Hanniball, Katherine Britt
Research suggests that the emotional benefits of prosocial behaviour may be universal; adults and children from various countries around the world experience happiness from engaging in prosocial action. Importantly, psychological universals may not only be detectable in diverse contexts, but across a range of actors as well – including individuals with antisocial tendencies. Three studies examined whether individuals with criminal histories and antisocial inclinations experience hedonic rewards from engaging in prosocial behaviour. In Experiment 1, high-risk youth and juvenile offenders (N = 64) who were randomly assigned to purchase candy for a children’s charity reported greater positive affect than those who purchased candy for themselves. In Experiment 2, adult ex-offenders (N = 501) randomly assigned to recall and describe the last time they spent money on someone else reported higher positive affect controlling for baseline levels of well being than those who recalled spending on themselves. In Experiment 3, adult ex-offenders (N = 777) randomly assigned to donate funds to a charity organization reported higher positive affect than those who used the funds to purchase an item for themselves. Self-reported antisocial tendencies did not moderate the emotional rewards of prosocial spending in any study. These findings suggest that the hedonic rewards of prosocial behaviour are detectable in high-risk and ex-criminal populations, providing further support for the universal benefits of generosity.
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Thesis advisor: Aknin, Lara
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