Robbins, Mark L.

Advisor Department





elevation; guilt; prosocial behaviors; organ donation; blood donation; positive psychology

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Many public health concerns and life-threatening injuries rely on solutions that are either partially or entirely prosocial in nature. In other words, these solutions require that a person makes a conscious decision to act altruistically, receiving no or minimal benefit from this decision. By example, thousands of people each year are given a second chance at life thanks to others who have made the decision to donate blood or organs and tissues. Despite this, the demand for these behaviors is far greater than the supply, leading to many other issues, including (but certainly not limited to) long wait times on transplant lists.

Given this high demand, a great deal of research has been dedicated to efforts that encourage this type of prosocial decision-making. Efforts of this nature have often involved guilt-based approaches; however, while guilt increases prosocial acts to some extent, it often fatigues individuals or causes them to become resentful of this approach. A second approach, researched by individuals in the field of positive psychology, focuses on inducing positive emotions to accomplish the same end. One emotion, termed elevation, is an uplifted state elicited upon witnessing a social moral act, particularly one that is altruistic in nature. Findings have shown that this feeling of elevation is very effective in motivating the witness to have a desire to also engage in similar, prosocial ways (Haidt, 2000; Schnall, Roper, & Fessler, 2010).

In nearly all prior research on elevation, the affective state has been induced through real-life, or audio/video scenarios. As a result, the current study aims to assess whether elevation can be induced with a brief, written story. Additionally, the relationship between the state of elevation and attitudes about prosocial health behaviors (e.g., feeling more pro and less con about donating blood or organs/tissue) will be examined, as it would help to distinguish whether elevation influences one’s attitudes (beliefs/views/feelings about a behavior) and intentions (estimates of plans to participate in a behavior) to perform those prosocial behaviors. For comparison purposes, the story designed to induce the affective states (e.g., guilt, elevation) will be compared with that of a neutral state to determine whether mood induction was successful. Afterward, each state will then be analyzed in comparison to each other to determine the magnitude of each state’s effect on attitudes and intentions to perform prosocial behaviors. It is hypothesized that elevation will have the most positive effect on participants' short-term attitudes and intentions in comparison to the neutral and guilt conditions.

The rationale for the current project is to add to the body of research regarding how affective states, such as elevation, can influence decision-making in regards to prosocial behaviors. If this brief, easily deliverable method can reliably induce elevation and likewise increases the likelihood of engaging in prosocial behaviors, by example, then this could potentially play an important role in interventions to address significant public health concerns and promote additional research on similar intervention methods.

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