The effects of exposure to images of others’ suffering and vulnerability on altruistic, trust-based, and reciprocated economic decision-making

Powell, Philip, Wills, Olivia, Reynolds, Gemma ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2893-6380, Puustinen-Hopper, Kaisa and Roberts, Jennifer (2018) The effects of exposure to images of others’ suffering and vulnerability on altruistic, trust-based, and reciprocated economic decision-making. PLoS One, 13 (3). e0194569. ISSN 1932-6203 (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0194569)

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Abstract

In this paper we explored the effects of exposure to images of the suffering and vulnerability of others on altruistic, trust-based, and reciprocated incentivized economic decisions, accounting for differences in participants’ dispositional empathy and reported in-group trust for their recipient(s). This was done using a pictorial priming task, framed as a memory test, and a triadic economic game design. Using the largest experimental sample to date to explore this issue, our integrated analysis of two online experiments (total N = 519), found statistically consistent evidence that exposure to images of suffering and vulnerability (vs. neutral images) increased altruistic in-group giving as measured by the “triple dictator game”, and that the manipulation was significantly more effective in those who reported lower trust for their recipients. The experimental manipulation also significantly increased altruistic giving in the standard “dictator game” and trust-based giving in the “investment game”, but only in those who were lower in in-group trust and also high in affective or cognitive empathy. Complementary qualitative evidence revealed the strongest motivations associated with increased giving in the experimental condition were greater assumed reciprocation and a lower aversion to risk. However, no consistent effects of the experimental manipulation on participants’ reciprocated decisions were observed. These findings suggest that, as well as altruistic decision-making in the “triple dictator game”, collaboratively witnessing the suffering of others may heighten trust-based in-group giving in the “investment game” for some people, but the effects are heterogeneous and sensitive to context.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Article number=e0194569. Article Citation: Powell PA, Wills O, Reynolds G, Puustinen-Hopper K, Roberts J (2018) The effects of exposure to images of others’ suffering and vulnerability on altruistic, trust-based, and reciprocated economic decision-making. PLoS ONE 13(3): e0194569. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194569
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology
Item ID: 23860
Notes on copyright: Copyright: © 2018 Powell et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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Depositing User: Gemma Reynolds
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2018 10:03
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2019 09:17
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/23860

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