The Effect of Stress on Prosocial Sharing Behavior in Young Adults
Metadata[+] Show full item record
Prosocial behavior benefits both an individual and society. Sharing behavior is considered the most altruistic, due to individuals sacrificing time and resources without the expectation of reciprocation. A cost-benefit analysis may incorporate contextual factors influencing sharing behavior; thus, contexts where individuals may be asked to share should be considered. Stress is one contextual factor that has been considered but is understudied related to sharing behavior. Research has indicated stress enhances prosocial behaviors; however, stress may differentially influence prosocial behaviors depending on individual or contextual factors. This study investigated how acute psychological stress, via social rejection, may influence subsequent sharing behavior in young adults. Additionally, it investigated how an individual’s emotional reactivity to stress and understanding of other’s intentions may influence sharing decisions. Forty-six young adults were recruited and assigned to a stress group, where individuals experienced social rejection, or a neutral group. All participants completed computerized sharing tasks. Sharing tasks were binary choices with an anonymous partner who displayed prosocial and selfish intentions towards them. A preference parameter for altruistic acts generated an index for an individual’s prosociality. Participants reported perceived stress and overall mood at three times; before (T1) and after (T2) the social rejection manipulation, and following the sharing task (T3). Results indicated that socially rejected participants were more willing to share with an anonymous other, even when their initial payoff was lower than the other. The neutral group displayed different levels of sharing behavior depending on the initial payoff to themselves. Other’s intentions did not significantly impact sharing behavior in either group. The social rejection manipulation did not elicit changes in perceived stress; however, overall mood was significantly decreased in the stress group (T1-T2). The stress group demonstrated a significant decrease in perceived stress after completing sharing tasks (T2-T3). These findings suggest that socially rejected individuals could display enhanced prosocial behaviors by sharing with others, even at a monetary cost, perhaps to gain social connection. Results are discussed related to the findings and their contribution to further understanding of mechanisms of prosocial sharing behavior in young adults. Future research and possible study limitations are also discussed.
Table of Contents
Overview -- Review of the literature -- Methodology -- Results -- Discussion
M.A. (Master of Arts)