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Elevation has a positive effect that promotes altruistic behavior

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A new study shows that elevation from watching good deeds from others can have a positive effect that leads to altruistic behavior in others. Researchers studied the reaction of study participants who experienced elevation, finding that uplifting feelings makes us more willing to help others and promotes altruistic behavior.

Simone Schnall from the University of Cambridge, Jean Roper from the University of Plymouth, and Daniel M.T. Fessler from the University of California, Los Angeles, psychological scientists, wanted to see if watching others perform good deeds could lead to altruistic behavior. They enrolled study participants to either watch a neutral television clip related to nature, a clip from Oprah Winfrey showing musicians thanking their mentors that produced feelings of elevation. The group was then asked to write an essay to describe their feelings.

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The findings revealed that individuals who experience elevation through watching the good deeds of others were more likely to volunteer for another research study compared to those who watched the neutral television clip. The researchers took it a step further to find out if watching good deeds could influence others toward positive and helpful behavior.

For the next experiment, the study participants viewed either the same neutral or uplifting television clip, as before, or a British comedy designed to induce cheerfulness. Afterward the researchers feigned difficulty opening a computer file associated with the study. They presented boring questionnaires to the participants, telling them they were free to leave, but asked if they would be willing to answer questions for another study on a strictly voluntary basis.

Strikingly, the individuals who watched the uplifting clip that produced feelings of elevation spend twice as long being helpful. The study authors concluded, “by eliciting elevation, even brief exposure to other individuals’ prosocial behavior motivates altruism, thus potentially providing an avenue for increasing the general level of prosociality in society."